HOUSTON – At least one of the women who has accused Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of assault attempted to blackmail him earlier this year, according to the football player’s attorney.
In a statement released Tuesday, attorney Rusty Hardin said that while he and Watson take the allegations seriously, “fairness to the accused is equally important.”
Hardin said he has a declaration by Watson’s manager, who claims the unidentified woman in one of the cases attempted to blackmail Watson after a consensual encounter in December. In the declaration, Watson’s manager claims the woman wanted $30,000 in exchange for her “indefinite silence.”
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“It is our belief this woman is the plaintiff in Cause No. 2021-15613,” Hardin said in the statement. “This calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases as well.”
According to Hardin, his investigation has been hindered by the refusal of attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing the 14 women who have filed lawsuits against Watson, to confidentially release the names of Watson’s accusers.
“Anonymity is often necessary as a shield for victims but opposing counsel has used it as a sword to publicly humiliate Deshaun before the truth‑seeking process can even begin,” Hardin said in the written statement.
Hardin said he also has received unsolicited comments from massage therapists who have worked with Watson in recent years and that they describe Watson as “a model client who never engaged in inappropriate conduct.”
Hardin’s full statement
The following is the full written statement released by Hardin:
“I want to emphasize at the outset that we and Deshaun recognize that sexual assault and harassment are not only unlawful, but morally wrong. It takes courage for women to come forward to report being mistreated, particularly when they attach their names to a lawsuit. We do not take these allegations lightly. However, fairness to the accused is equally as important.
“Opposing counsel has orchestrated a circus-like atmosphere by using social media to publicize 14 “Jane Doe” lawsuits during the past seven days in a manner calculated to inflame the public and malign Deshaun’s otherwise sterling reputation. In addition, the tactic of refusing our requests to confidentially provide the names of the plaintiffs so we can fully investigate their claims makes uncovering the truth extremely difficult. Anonymity is often necessary as a shield for victims but opposing counsel has used it as a sword to publicly humiliate Deshaun before the truth‑seeking process can even begin.
“I believe that any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false. And in the one case in which we have been able to identify a plaintiff, we have strong evidence showing the allegation is false. 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. It is our belief this woman is the plaintiff in Cause No. 2021-15613. (Please see the declaration by Bryan Burney below.) This calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases as well.
“We have received numerous unsolicited comments in the past week from many licensed massage therapists who have worked with Deshaun in recent years. These women describe him as a gentleman and a model client who never engaged in inappropriate conduct. Indeed, before these salacious claims, everyone who associated with Deshaun described him as an outstanding, respectful, and compassionate man.
“Again, we are taking the allegations very seriously and we ask only that people not rush to judgment, that people not be unduly influenced by opposing counsel’s antics, and that they let fundamental fairness to both sides rule the day. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”
Declaration by Watson’s manager
The following is the declaration from Bryan Burney, Watson’s manager, as released by Hardin:
1. My name is Bryan Burney. I am the marketing manager for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, and have had this role for more than three years. I have personal knowledge of the facts stated in this declaration; they are true and correct.
2. In mid-January 2021, I spoke with an individual who I believe is the Plaintiff, identified as “Jane Doe,” in Jane Doe v. Deshaun Watson, Cause No. 2021-15613, currently pending in Harris County, Texas. It is clear to me that the person I spoke with met with Deshaun on December 28, 2020, the same day that Jane Doe contends in her petition that she met with Deshaun. When I spoke with Ms. Doe in January, she stated that she wanted a “settlement” from Deshaun, though what exactly she wished to “settle” was not clear to me.
3. During my discussions with Ms. Doe, I questioned the factual basis for the “settlement” that she was requesting from Deshaun. Ms. Doe informed me that she was asking to be paid $30,000 for what she referred to as “indefinite silence” about her encounter with Deshaun. I asked her what she would be silent about and whether anything had happened with Deshaun against her will. She confirmed that everything that occurred was consensual during her encounter with Deshaun. I asked Ms. Doe why Deshaun should pay for silence regarding something that was consensual – whatever it was. She said that it was a matter that both she and Deshaun would wish to keep secret and that she would need to be paid for her “silence.”
4. After my conversation with Ms. Doe, I received a call from a man purporting to be her “business manager.” Ms. Doe’s business manager told me that her encounter with Deshaun would be embarrassing if revealed and that Deshaun should pay to keep the matter secret.
5. I told this individual that his demand to be paid for not revealing a consensual interaction between two adults was extortion.
6. He responded, “It’s not extortion, it’s blackmail.”
7. I informed this individual that Deshaun would not be paying the $30,000 requested.
8. In the years that I have known Deshaun, I have known him to be a respectful, decent human being. I do not believe him capable of the conduct that “Jane Doe” has anonymously accused him of in this case. This conduct is also completely inconsistent with multiple statements made by Jane Doe and by her “business manager,” indicating that her encounter with Deshaun involved only consensual activity.
JURAT PURSUANT TO TEXAS CIVIL PRACTICE & REMEDIES CODE § 132.001
My name is Bryan Burney, and my address is [redacted]. I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
Executed in Kings County, State of New York, on the 23rd day of March 2021.
Tony Buzbee responds to Watson’s lawyer
Later Tuesday afternoon, Buzbee responded to Hardin with a statement of his own.
Buzbee said that his first reaction to Hardin’s statement is that “there have been so many message sessions from Instagram that Mr. Watson can’t keep track of them.”
He added that his company will provide a copy of a non-disclosure agreement that Watson and his marketing manager repeatedly insisted that Jane Doe sign after the “massage session.”
Buzbee’s full statement:
“My first reaction is that there have been so many massage sessions from Instagram that Mr. Watson can’t keep track of them. My second reaction is a question: why would his agent admit Watson had sex for pay with a massage therapist, consensual or otherwise? We will also provide a copy of the non-disclosure agreement that Deshaun Watson and his marketing manager repeatedly insisted that Jane Doe sign after the “massage session,” which she refused to sign. I do appreciate Mr. Hardin’s professionalism and his words of support for victims, but would respectfully suggest there are many facts here, that we will put in public filings, that Mr. Hardin might not be aware of. We will provide additional details in a statement, consistent with our ethical obligations in due course. I’m hoping we can do so by Friday.”