Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee said during a news conference Friday that he will be filing an additional five lawsuits against Deshaun Watson “in due course” — bringing the number of total cases to 12 alleging inappropriate conduct and sexual assault by the Texans’ quarterback.
Buzbee also said he has spoken to “more than 10 additional women” who have come forward with reports about similar conduct from Watson after encounters.
Buzbee said alleged inappropriate conduct by Watson has happened as recently as this month, which was after the first time Buzbee said he spoke to Watson’s lawyer Scott Gaffield. Watson has since hired Houston attorney Rusty Hardin.
Buzbee said during the news conference that his office has been in contact with police and that he would provide information to them about the women who intend to sue Watson. The Houston Police Department said in a statement posted to Twitter later Friday that it was unaware of any contact it had with Buzbee regarding the allegations or the filings of any incident reports. Buzbee later wrote on social media that the contact he referenced earlier was with a detective he knows who reached out to him.
Buzbee also said he is not aware of any police reports filed before the civil suits.
“That’s going to be our next step,” Buzbee said, noting he will do so when his clients are ready but without offering a timeline on when that would be.
Buzbee said Watson’s representatives have known about the allegations for more than a month.
“We actually had contact with Deshaun Watson’s agent/lawyer from Los Angeles, who minimized these allegations, who did not take them seriously,” Buzbee said. “We wanted to resolve this matter without a lawsuit, without any publicity. We knew that once we filed a lawsuit — Texas, of course, has an open courts provision in the constitution, so all lawsuits are public. We wanted to avoid that.”
Hardin on Friday issued a statement saying the allegations against Watson are “meritless.”
“I’m extremely proud to represent Deshaun Watson and wholly stand behind him against what we believe are meritless allegations,” Hardin’s statement said. “However, we will wait to comment in detail until we’ve completed our review of the numerous, evolving allegations from Mr. Buzbee. We will respond next week and ask you to keep an open mind until we do so.”
After Buzbee’s announcement of the first lawsuit Tuesday, Watson responded on Twitter by saying that he rejected “a baseless six-figure settlement demand” and that this is “about clearing my name, and I look forward to doing that.” At the time of his statement, Watson said he had not seen the first lawsuit.
“I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect,” Watson said in his statement.
In Friday’s news conference, Buzbee said one of the women said Watson was referred to her by a Texans athletic trainer, while another woman said Watson was referred to her by Quincy Avery, Watson’s personal quarterback coach and athletic trainer.
Buzbee said that when he filed the first lawsuit on Tuesday night, he was representing only two women. Since then, the other women have come forward.
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy on Thursday said “the matter is under review” of the league’s personal conduct policy, and the Texans said they would stay in close contact with the NFL during the league’s investigation. Buzbee said that he has not had any contact with the Texans and that the only contact with the NFL has been the letter he received from Lisa Friel, the league’s special counsel for investigations.
Buzbee has yet to directly respond to the NFL’s request to interview him and his clients, league sources told ESPN’s Ed Werder, although he vowed cooperation in his news conference. The NFL protocol would also involve an eventual interview with Watson.
Under terms of the NFL personal conduct policy, Watson could be punished if the league determines the allegations are true, regardless of the outcome in court, but a source told Werder that it’s premature to discuss what the allegations could mean for Watson’s future.
While there has been speculation that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could place Watson on the exempt list, that is not believed to be a current option because the NFL offseason has begun and that process was designed to remove players facing potential disciplinary action from practices and games.
The seven lawsuits filed so far depict a pattern of sexual assault against massage therapists in the Houston area. One woman alleges she was forced into oral sex during the course of the massage. Six of the lawsuits allege these were one-time encounters with Watson, but one woman alleges she was sexually assaulted by Watson on multiple occasions. That lawsuit says the first massage was booked through the spa where the licensed aesthetician worked. The six other lawsuits allege Watson first inquired about the massage through Instagram direct messages.
Three of the four lawsuits filed Thursday night accuse him of inappropriate contact; the fourth said he forcibly tried to kiss a woman.
“Watson’s behavior is part of a disturbing pattern of preying on vulnerable women,” the fourth lawsuit reads.
All of the women who have filed lawsuits against Watson to this point have done so anonymously. Many of them allege they were intimidated by his physical stature and his status as an NFL quarterback.
Buzbee said Friday that three of the women his law firm represents “are undergoing intensive therapy as a result of the defendant’s conduct.”
Watson’s agent, David Mulugheta, posted on Twitter on Friday.
“Sexual assault is real. Victims should be heard, offenders prosecuted,” Mulugheta posted Friday. “Individuals fabricate stories in pursuit of financial gain often. Their victims should be heard, and those offenders also prosecuted. I simply hope we keep this same energy with the truth.”
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