DeShaun Watson’s Houston-based attorney Rusty Hardin is looking to quash the lawsuit of the 26th accuser to allege that the Cleveland Browns quarterback engaged in sexual misconduct during a massage session. This week Hardin called the lawsuit a shakedown and says he has text messages that prove it.
“It’s nothing but an extortionist shakedown and we’re not going to put up with it,” Hardin said. “The days of settling lawsuits that we don’t believe in are over.”
According to Hardin, he has more than 35 text messages from the plaintiff to Watson that were sent in the year after the alleged incident in December 2020 but were never returned. These messages show that the plaintiff wasn’t forced to perform oral sex, which she alleges in her suit.
Of these text messages and screenshots, which are a part of the case filings, the plaintiff comes across as someone that wished to pursue something with Watson. In the messages she is asking Watson to meet her at the Houstonian hotel, where the alleged incident took place during their lone massage appointment. Some of the requests to see him again took place just days after the alleged assault.
“I think the days of biting our tongue and trying to be politically correct and trying to be a little bit cautious about what the evidence shows and what the facts reveal — the days of doing that are over,” said Leah Graham, one of the attorneys at Hardin’s firm. “The truth shall set us free.”
Originally 24 women filed lawsuits against Watson for sexual misconduct, and while criminal charges were not filed, all of these matters proceeded to civil court. Watson settled 23 of the original 24 suits, with one pending. Hardin said Watson settled so he could get back to playing football.
The 24 women were all represented by attorney Tony Buzbee, who declined to represent five other women. Anissah Nguyen, the attorney for plaintiff number 26, said that her client spoke to Buzbee about representation.
Of the 26 plaintiffs is it possible one or more were attempting to shake down Watson? Yes. Does that mean the other lawsuits were frivolous and settled for no reason? No.
Remember, retired Judge Sue L. Robinson, an independent arbiter jointly appointed by the league and players union, in her decision found that “the NFL carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault.”
Mr. Watson reached out to women whose professional qualifications were unknown and unimportant to him. He insisted on using a towel, increasing the probability of exposure. He insisted on having the therapists focus on areas of his body that not uncommonly triggered erections. And he engaged in this pattern of conduct multiple times. I find this sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the NFL’s contention not only that contact occurred, but that Mr. Watson was aware that contact probably would occur, and that Mr. Watson had a sexual purpose – not just a therapeutic purpose – in making these arrangements with these particular therapists. … I find the evidence sufficient to demonstrate that Mr. Watson knew, or should have known, that any contact between his penis and these therapists was unwanted.
So maybe the latest lawsuit is a shakedown and Watson, and his attorneys have the right to defend him from someone looking to take advantage. But one frivolous lawsuit doesn’t change the facts that Watson engaged in a pattern of unwanted sexual advances and sexual misconduct with many massage therapists. He was tried by the NFL’s appointed judge, given six games. The NFL appealed and he was given 11 games. With the current season entering Week 8, Watson will be back on the field soon.