HOUSTON – While the number of women accusing Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct during an array of massage therapy sessions ballooned to 22 in recent weeks, Watson and his team remained quiet.
On Monday afternoon, they broke their silence.
Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, fired back at the accusers with a published statement that once again denies any wrongdoing and even goes on the offensive by saying that all 22 women who have come forward are lying. Hardin went so far as to call the lawsuits “a money grab” and poked holes in the accounts delivered by some of the accusers.
“Mr. Watson has been adamant that he did not engage in any improper conduct and we strongly believe him,” Hardin wrote. “Therefore, the answer to the question of whether we are saying that all 22 plaintiffs are lying about the allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Watson is a resounding yes.
“We and Mr. Watson take allegations of sexual misconduct against women very seriously, as we all should. We have waited to respond to the numerous allegations made by Mr. [Tony] Buzbee and his clients until we could responsibly investigate. In the few days since his accusers’ names have been revealed, as was required by Texas law, we are discovering an avalanche of false accusations.
“I hope everyone will take a fair and measured look at these accusations as we go forward in these cases. We certainly welcome anyone with relevant information to contact us. We do not expect to make any other comment today. The next hearing in this case is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.”
In the statement, Hardin does not deny that Watson sought massage therapy from any of the 22 plaintiffs, but characterizes their interactions with Watson as consensual. He cites that eight of the plaintiffs “bragged,” and were “excited” about massaging Watson while seven offered to work with Watson again after their sessions. Hardin further details that several accusers lied about the number of sessions they had with Watson and their resulting trauma, at least five told others that “they wanted to get money out of” Watson, and five have “scrubbed or entirely deleted their social media accounts.”
One of the most important aspects of Hardin’s statement was an effort to undercut attorney Tony Buzbee’s star witness, Ashley Solis. Solis came forward on April 6 to give a five-minute account of her interaction with Watson and the trauma stemming from the session.
“Plaintiff Ashley Solis implies that Mr. Watson’s question—asking if she ‘was comfortable with certain areas [his] organization is making him get worked on’—was somehow sexually suggestive,” Hardin detailed. “That same question, however, posed to a therapist not seeking to exploit Mr. Watson, was perceived as it was intended: a legitimate therapeutic inquiry. Ms. Solis’s skewed perception of Mr. Watson’s legitimate and innocent query became a prototype for the assembly line of similar allegations in subsequent lawsuits.”
Later Monday afternoon, Buzbee responded to Hardin’s filings.
“Watson can’t deny he sought out an unusually large amount of women for massages on Instagram,” Buzbee said. “He doesn’t deny he insisted on being nude or nearly nude. He can’t deny he wanted more than a ‘massage,’ and he hasn’t credibly denied that something bad happened during the session. He instead claimed that any sexual acts were consensual. Of course, his definition of ‘consent’ doesn’t comport with that of everyone else.”
As reported by the Associated Press, the 22 women accuse Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his genitals, kissing them against their will during various massage sessions. Every one of the plaintiffs are currently licensed massage therapists or have worked in a spa or similar business.