12:17 PM ET
Sarah BarshopESPN Staff Writer
- Covered the Packers for ESPN Milwaukee
- Marquette University graduate
HOUSTON — Attorney Rusty Hardin has filed an answer to the 22 lawsuits filed against Deshaun Watson that says the Houston Texans quarterback’s legal team has “already uncovered evidence that numerous allegations in this onslaught of cases are simply not true or accurate.”
From March 16 to April 14, 23 lawsuits were filed against Watson alleging inappropriate conduct and sexual assault. One lawsuit was dropped by a plaintiff “for now,” according to court documents, “in light of privacy and security concerns.”
The answer, filed Monday, says the lawsuits filed against Watson are “replete with mischaracterizations of [his] conduct.”
“These range from being misleading, to fraudulent, to slanderous,” the document says. “Importantly, only two of the twenty-two lawsuits allege that Mr. Watson forced any type of sexual activity — an allegation Mr. Watson again vehemently denies.”
Watson’s legal response alleges that after eight of the plaintiffs massaged Watson, all “bragged about, praised, and were excited about massaging Mr. Watson.” The document also says seven plaintiffs “willingly worked or offered to work with Mr. Watson after their alleged incidents,” three plaintiffs “lied about the number of sessions they actually had” with Watson, three plaintiffs “lied about their alleged trauma and resulting harm” and five plaintiffs “told others they wanted to get money out of” Watson.
The answer goes into detail rebutting allegations made by several of the women who filed the lawsuits against Watson, naming 16 plaintiffs specifically.
“It was not until the plaintiffs saw an opportunity for a money grab that they changed their stories to convert therapy sessions they bragged about to friends and family to something much more nefarious,” Watson’s answer alleges.
“Mr. Watson has been adamant that he did not engage in any improper conduct and we strongly believe him,” Hardin said in a statement released Monday afternoon. “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.”
Attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing the 22 women who have filed the lawsuits, said in a statement that “Watson’s only defense is to call these brave women liars.”
“The weak and vague allegations made in Defendant’s response are demonstrably false. Watson can’t deny he sought out an unusually high number of women for massages on Instagram; he doesn’t deny he insisted on being nude or nearly nude; he can’t deny the massage sessions occurred; 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 claims that any sexual acts were consensual. Of course his definition of ‘consent’ doesn’t comport with that of everyone else. I have faith that the court process will sort out the truth as these matters progress,” Buzbee added.
Before this answer, Watson’s lone comments came when he posted a statement on Twitter saying he had not seen the lawsuit but had previously rejected “a baseless six-figure settlement demand.”
“I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect,” Watson said in his statement.
The NFL has launched an investigation into Watson under its personal conduct policy, and on April 6, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy called the allegations against the quarterback “deeply disturbing.”