Twenty out of 24 of the plaintiffs embroiled in a civil suit against former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson have settled, according to attorney Tony Buzbee.
The women filed suit against the embattled NFL star, who now plays for the Cleveland Browns, for what most claim was inappropriate sexual conduct during massage therapy sessions.
Buzbee confirmed the settlements on Tuesday, but declined to mention the exact details.
“The cases against Deshaun Watson started with one phone call, from one brave and strong woman. That woman was Ashley Solis. At the time of that call she was just one of the hundreds of calls seeking legal assistance that our firm gets weekly. Even though she was originally turned away by our screening process, my staff insisted that I personally speak with her. I’m glad she persisted.
“Once we took a second look, and after having contact with Watson’s original lawyer who disrespected Ashley and her profession and who arrogantly minimized the conduct of someone he referred to as an “asset,” I was convinced that our law firm should try to help her. As a result of Ashley’s lone but brave voice, soon many women who had allegedly experienced the same conduct were emboldened to step forward.
“I am incredibly proud to represent them all. They have endured vile criticism and fanatical ignorance. They faced withering cross examination by skilled litigators and stood firm.
“They are warriors all. Today we have an important announcement about these cases, but it is important to point out that, without Ashley Solis, the conduct experienced by these women would likely have continued unfettered. The truth is, without her courage and willingness to come forward, the NFL wouldn’t currently be contemplating discipline; there would be no examination of how teams might knowingly or unknowingly enable certain behavior; sports teams wouldn’t be reviewing their personnel screening processes; and this important story wouldn’t have dominated the sports headlines for more than a year.
Watson has been accused by massage therapists of harassing, assaulting or touching them during appointments when he was with the Houston Texans. Documents show he found most of the women through the social media platform Instagram. In most instances, the women were paid amounts as low as $100 for their services.
In many of the complaints on record, women claim that Watson exposed himself and masturbated in front of them, rarely offering any apologies for his alleged conduct.
From the very beginning, Watson and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have maintained his innocence and were adamant that they would not make any settlement agreements. They said their only goal was to clear his name.
Hardin admitted that Watson did have sexual intercourse with a few of the therapists, but vehemently denied that anyone was made to do anything against their will.
Hardin even came under scrutiny for his choice of wording, saying during an interview with Houston’s SportsRadio 610 that there was nothing criminal in receiving “a happy ending.” His team quickly sent out a statement, clearing up what was meant.
Hardin’s statement read, in part:
“On a Houston radio show interview today, I mentioned that a massage that has a “happy ending” is not illegal, meaning it is not illegal for someone to have consensual sex with a therapist after a massage unless the sex is for pay. Deshaun did not pay anyone for sex. I was using the term hypothetically and not describing Deshaun’s case.
“I have reiterated to others it’s not ok to do anything that a woman does not agree to do. These women have alleged assault in their pleadings. I was speaking in a hypothetical situation. If there is a consensual sexual encounter after a massage, that is not a crime nor the basis for a civil lawsuit. I was not talking about what Deshaun did or did not do or expected or did not expect.”
Commenting on the rising amounts of lawsuits, KPRC2 legal analyst Brian Wice previously said Watson faced a tough outlook.
“With each additional lawsuit, this litigation continues to reach Defcon 1,” Wice said. “Deshaun Watson is caught in a West Texas hailstorm. He can’t run. He can’t hide and he can’t make it stop.”
The three-time Pro Bowl QB has recently inked a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract with Cleveland despite his legal entanglements.
In addition to the legal woes, Watson is also facing a possible suspension from the NFL, which is independently investigating his behavior to see if he violated the league’s personal conduct policies.