4:53 PM ET
Sarah BarshopESPN Staff Writer
- Covered the Packers for ESPN Milwaukee
- Marquette University graduate
HOUSTON — Twenty women who had filed lawsuits alleging inappropriate behavior and sexual assault by Deshaun Watson have amended their petitions to disclose their names, while a new lawsuit against the Houston Texans quarterback was filed Wednesday afternoon at the Harris County District Clerk’s office.
The latest lawsuit was filed by a freelance makeup artist who says Watson reached out to her via Instagram direct message on Sept. 2, 2020, asking if she offered massages. The lawsuit details two separate incidents that occurred during massage sessions in September and November, during which Watson allegedly assaulted and harassed the woman “by exposing himself, touching her with his penis and groping her.”
The plaintiff alleges that while she was massaging Watson the second time, he “instructed her to grab his penis.” She said no before eventually doing as Watson instructed because “the pressure from Watson’s relentless instruction coercing her against her will left her powerless.”
This week, one of the original 22 lawsuits filed against Watson was dropped by a plaintiff “for now,” according to court documents.
“In light of privacy and security concerns, Plaintiff has decided not to pursue her case, for now,” the document said. “Plaintiff reserves the right to refile this case once such concerns are addressed.”
Another one of the existing lawsuits is expected to be refiled by Thursday after an emergency hearing was canceled on Wednesday.
On Friday, two judges ruled that most of the plaintiffs suing Watson must identify themselves. The rulings from two hearings Friday covered 13 of the lawsuits filed against Watson, while the attorneys also agreed to release a 14th name later in the day. Before Friday, only two women had been publicly identified. Another emergency hearing to determine whether the remaining lawsuits should be amended had been scheduled for Wednesday but was called off shortly before it was scheduled to begin.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Tony Buzbee, said in a statement Tuesday that his law firm “previously attempted to make available to Defense Counsel the names of the plaintiffs suing Deshaun Watson, and intended to do so in due course.”
“We were concerned about the safety of these plaintiffs, and asked the Watson team to agree to a protective order where the identities could be used in litigation, but not broadcast to the world,” Buzbee’s statement continued.
In a statement last week, Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said that when his law firm asked Buzbee “to identify his clients weeks ago, he refused and told us to file a motion.”
“While I understand that anonymity often is used as a shield for victims, Mr. Buzbee is using it as a sword,” Hardin said in a statement on Thursday. “While shielding his clients from public scrutiny, Mr. Buzbee continues to use their anonymous allegations to destroy Mr. Watson. This is simply not right. And we look forward to resolving these matters in court.”