5:00 PM ET
Sarah BarshopESPN Staff Writer
- Covered the Packers for ESPN Milwaukee
- Marquette University graduate
HOUSTON — With the number of lawsuits against Deshaun Watson reaching 16 on Tuesday, the quarterback’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement that his law firm has “strong evidence” showing that one of the lawsuits alleging sexual assault is false and that it “calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases as well.”
Hardin added that he believes “any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false.”
After two more lawsuits were filed late Tuesday afternoon, there are now 16 filed by Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee against Watson alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct. The 14th lawsuit was filed Monday night and appeared on the Harris County District Clerk’s website on Tuesday morning, while Nos. 15 and 16, alleging similar behavior by Watson, were filed Tuesday afternoon.
In his statement Tuesday, issued before lawsuits No. 15 and 16 were filed, Hardin said that Buzbee has “orchestrated a circus-like atmosphere by using social media to publicize 14 ‘Jane Doe’ lawsuits,” and that the lawyer has also refused Hardin’s requests “to confidentially provide the names of the plaintiffs so we can fully investigate their claims” against the Houston Texans quarterback.
Regarding the case that was singled out by Hardin in his statement, Watson’s attorney released a signed affidavit from Watson’s marketing manager, Bryan Burney. In that declaration, Burney said he spoke with an individual he believes is the plaintiff in the third case filed by Buzbee.
“In January of this year, a woman attempted to blackmail Deshaun by demanding $30,000 in exchange for her ‘indefinite silence’ about what she stated was a consensual encounter,” the statement said.
The lawsuit referenced alleges that Watson sent a direct message to the plaintiff over Instagram and then scheduled a massage for Dec. 28, 2020, at an office building in Houston.
After leaving the room, the massage therapist alleges that she returned to find Watson lying on the massage table on his stomach with just a small towel covering his buttocks. She alleges that when Watson turned over midway through the massage, he “got more aggressive, forcefully telling her to move her hand down to his pubic area.”
The plaintiff alleges that she felt “intimidated and threatened” and “was afraid of what someone like Watson could do if she did not submit to his demands.” She says in the lawsuit that Watson made it clear, repeatedly, that he could “help, or hurt, her career.” The lawsuit alleges that Watson forced the woman into oral sex and says that she “did not consent.”
Burney said in the declaration that the woman said she wanted to be paid $30,000 “for what she referred to as ‘indefinite silence’ about her encounter with Deshaun.” Burney said in the declaration that the woman told him it was “a consensual encounter.”
On Tuesday, Buzbee said Watson and Burney “repeatedly insisted that Jane Doe sign” a non-disclosure agreement, and that she refused to do so. Buzbee also questioned whether Watson could “keep track of” all of his massage sessions.
“There are many facts here that we will put in public filings, that Mr. Hardin might not be aware of,” said Buzbee, who added that he hoped to provide additional details by Friday.
In an Instagram post Saturday, Buzbee said he would submit affidavits and evidence from several women to the Houston Police Department and the Houston district attorney Monday morning. He also said he will request that a grand jury consider the evidence and determine whether charges should be brought against Watson by the state of Texas.
Dane Schiller, a spokesperson for the Harris County district attorney, said Monday that it would be “inappropriate” for the DA’s office to comment on the lawsuits against Watson.
“It would be inappropriate for the District Attorney’s Office to comment on a civil lawsuit, and we refrain from publicly discussing allegations in any matter until and if a criminal charge is filed; we do this out of fairness to all,” Schiller said in a statement.
Of the 16 alleged incidents, all but two took place in the Houston area, with one allegedly happening at Watson’s home.
Last week, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said “the matter is under review” pertaining to the league’s personal conduct policy, and the Texans said in a statement that they would stay in close contact with the NFL during its investigation.
ESPN’s John Barr contributed to this report.