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(Warning: This story contains graphic allegations of sexual misconduct.)
HOUSTON — A 24th civil lawsuit was filed against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson on Monday, alleging a graphic encounter during a massage in August of 2020.
In the suit, a Houston woman alleges Watson received massages at her apartment on Aug. 5 and Aug. 9, with the first being cut short after the quarterback took a phone call and then departed in the middle of the session. She goes on to allege that Watson’s second session became sexually inappropriate, after Watson developed an erection and began to masturbate in front of her.
Here are the claims in the suit.
“Plaintiff immediately stopped the massage. Apparently responding to look of shock on Plaintiff’s face, Watson said to Plaintiff, ‘Relax. It is ok to touch it.’ Plaintiff refused Watson’s entreaties. Watson then stood up and continued masturbating more aggressively. As he did so, Watson asked the Plaintiff ‘Where do you want me to put it?’ Plaintiff by this point was in complete shock and could not speak. She froze. Watson quickly ejaculated; some of his ejaculate got on Plaintiff’s chest and face. Plaintiff immediately left the room, and ran into the bathroom to clean Watson’s ejaculate off of her. Watson offered no apology or explanation for this conduct. He instead got dressed, paid Plaintiff $150 via Cash App and left.”
The suit also alleged a pattern of Watson reaching out to strangers “more than a hundred times” through social media to solicit massages.
“Defendant Deshaun Watson has a disturbing pattern of conduct,” the suit claims. “Each of the cases against him is strikingly similar, evidencing a habit or custom: Watson seeks out random strangers on Instagram, as he has done more than a hundred times. The interaction typically begins with a direct message from Watson. He asks only if they will perform a massage; he doesn’t ask about references, licensure, training, skill set, or competence level. In some cases, massage is not even the woman’s specialty, and after being told that, Watson still insists on a massage.”
Watson’s defense attorney, Rusty Hardin, responded in a brief statement later Monday.
“We are unable to respond to the new lawsuit at this time,” it read. “Our legal team has not had time to investigate this new filing and had not heard her name until today. Deshaun continues to deny he did anything inappropriate with any of the plaintiffs.”
The suit also continued to ratchet up sniping between the legal teams involved in the litigation. The level of contentiousness has grown as Watson’s legal team repeatedly accused Tony Buzbee, the attorney for all 24 accusers, of utilizing the publicity from the lawsuits to raise his profile in the media, while also characterizing the women suing Watson as engaging in a “money grab.” Conversely, Buzbee has chastised Watson’s legal team for victim attacking while suggesting bullying or coercion tactics in some of the suits.
Buzbee also revealed details of confidential settlement talks in a lawsuit last week, inserting a footnote that said Watson had previously offered each of his accusers $100,000 to settle their cases out of court. Portions of Watson’s video depositions have also been leaked on two occasions. The source of those leaks hasn’t been revealed.
Most recently, Buzbee has taken direct aim at Hardin, criticizing remarks the lawyer made in a radio interview last week suggesting “happy endings” and other sexual activity are not criminal acts if the encounters occurred consensually and without payment for the activity. Buzbee seized on that interview to frame the rationale of Watson and his lawyers in Monday’s lawsuit.
“Watson’s lawyer claims that ‘happy endings’ are common in massage therapy and, short of paying extra cash for it, such conduct is not a crime,” the suit states. “Watson’s lawyer goes on to say that making a massage therapist ‘uncomfortable’ due to the type of conduct described herein is not a crime. The public comments made by Watson’s defense team evidence a belief system that explains Watson’s conduct: when Watson contacts a random massage therapist on Instagram for a massage, unbeknownst to the therapist, Watson is wanting more than a massage — his ‘thing’ is using his celebrity to make a massage session into something more. The women do not learn about Watson’s proclivities until it is too late.”
That passage is significant because it showcases how Buzbee may try the cases against Watson: by showing a pattern of behavior that seeks to introduce evidence from all the civil allegations against the quarterback, building a narrative that he essentially set up strangers for encounters that he expected to become sexual. And that he did it believing that his actions were appropriate because they were not illegal.
Buzbee released a statement following the filing of Monday’s suit, once again applauding the women who have come forward with allegations.
“Today we filed the twenty-fourth case alleging sexual misconduct against Deshaun Watson,” Buzbee said. “The allegations made in this new case are strikingly similar to those made by many of the other victims. Lost in the media frenzy surrounding Deshaun Watson is that these are twenty-four strong, courageous women who, despite ridicule, legal shenanigans, and intense media scrutiny, continue to stand firm for what is right.
“Setting aside the legal wrangling, the complicity of the NFL, or the failures of the criminal justice system, the resounding story that should be told here is that these women are true heroes. I will say again, our entire team is incredibly proud to represent these women, and we look forward to the day when we can lay out their cases in detail in front of a jury.”
It’s not yet known how the most recent lawsuits will impact the NFL’s ongoing investigation into Watson, which was wrapping up as recently as the end of May. The NFL had planned on passing its findings to an independent disciplinary arbitrator to determine whether Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy. But that was before the two most recent lawsuits were filed.
As of Monday, a league source said the probe is ongoing and will take into consideration the most recent allegations.