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Deshaun Watson reaches confidential settlement with 20 of 24 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct

HOUSTON — Embattled Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, accused of sexual assault and sexual misconduct by a number of women, has reached a confidential settlement in 20 of 24 civil lawsuits filed in opposition to him in Harris County District Court.

The majority of the lawsuits had been filed final yr, and all had been filed by plaintiffs’ lawyer Tony Buzbee, who introduced the settlement. Watson was not charged criminally by two Texas grand juries and has maintained he’s harmless of wrongdoing.

Deshaun Watson settles 20 of 24 sexual misconduct lawsuits

“Today I announce that all cases against Deshaun Watson, with the exception of four, have settled,” Buzbee stated in a press release. “We are working through the paperwork related to those settlements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential. We won’t comment further on the settlements or those cases.”

Traded to the Browns from the Houston Texans and signed to a $230 million absolutely assured contract, Watson, 26, has turn into a controversial determine within the NFL.

It’s unclear if this settlement will affect his anticipated hefty punishment from the NFL underneath its private conduct coverage, however Watson is broadly anticipated to overlook a good portion, if not your entire season.

The unique plaintiff, Ashley Solis, who has been outspoken about Watson’s alleged misconduct, stays an lively case. And Buzbee intends to proceed advocating for Solis and different plaintiffs.

“The cases against Deshaun Watson started with one phone call, from one brave and strong woman,” Buzbee said. “That girl was Ashley Solis. At the time of that decision she was only one of the lots of of calls in search of authorized help that our agency will get weekly. Even although she was initially turned away by our screening course of, my workers insisted that I personally communicate with her. I’m glad she persevered. Once we took a re-assessment, and after having contact with Watson’s unique lawyer who disrespected Ashley and her occupation and who arrogantly minimized the conduct of somebody he known as an ‘asset,’ I used to be satisfied that our legislation agency ought to attempt to assist her.

“As a end result of Ashley’s lone however courageous voice, quickly many women who had allegedly skilled the identical conduct had been emboldened to step ahead. I’m extremely proud to signify all of them. They have endured vile criticism and fanatical ignorance. They confronted withering cross examination by expert litigators and stood agency. They are warriors all.

Today we have an essential announcement about these circumstances, however it is very important level out that, with out Ashley Solis, the conduct skilled by these women would doubtless have continued unfettered. The fact is, with out her braveness and willingness to come back ahead, the NFL wouldn’t presently be considering self-discipline; there can be no examination of how groups would possibly knowingly or unknowingly allow sure habits; sports activities groups wouldn’t be reviewing their personnel screening processes; and this essential story wouldn’t have dominated the sports activities headlines for greater than a yr.”

There was no quick remark from the Browns, Watson or Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, in an e-mail to Pro Football Network, wrote: “Today’s development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process.”

Watson: ‘I never assaulted anyone’

Per week in the past, Watson spoke to reporters for the primary time since his introductory press convention.

“Like I said, I never assaulted anyone,” Watson stated. “I by no means harassed anybody or by no means disrespected anybody. I by no means pressured anybody to do something. I’ve been trustworthy, and I’ve been truthful about my stance. I by no means pressured anybody. I by no means assaulted anybody.

“That’s what I’ve been saying from the beginning, and I’m going to continue to do that until all of the facts come out. On the legal side, I have to just go with the process of my legal team and the court of law.”

Watson has met a number of instances in Houston with Lisa Friel, the NFL’s chief investigative counsel for personal-conduct coverage investigations. Friel is the previous chief of the Manhattan, New York District Attorney’s Office intercourse crimes prosecution workplace.

“I met with the NFL a couple of weeks ago and did everything they asked me to do,” Watson stated final week. “I answered every question truthfully that the NFL asked me, I spent hours with the people that they brought down, and that’s all I can do, be honest and tell them exactly what happened. I know they have a job, and I have to respect that, so that’s exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to cooperate, and they have to make a decision that’s best for the league.”

twenty fourth lawsuit was filed

The twenty fourth lawsuit, beforehand filed by Buzbee on behalf of therapeutic massage therapist Katy Williams, referenced Hardin, making a “happy endings” remark throughout a Houston radio station interview.

“Deshaun Watson’s attorney has called every woman suing Watson a liar,” the lawsuit said. “Watson’s lawyer claims that ‘happy endings’ are frequent in therapeutic massage remedy and, quick of paying further for it, such conduct is just not a criminal offense. Watson’s lawyer goes on to say that making a therapeutic massage therapist ‘uncomfortable’ as a result of kind of conduct described herein is just not a criminal offense.

“The public feedback made by Watson’s protection workforce proof a perception system that explains Watson’s conduct: when Watson contacts a random therapeutic massage therapist on Instagram for a therapeutic massage, unbeknownst to the therapist, Watson is wanting greater than a therapeutic massage – his ‘thing’ is utilizing his superstar to make a therapeutic massage into one thing extra.

“The woman do not learn about Watson’s proclivities until it is too late. What Plaintiff alleges herein is disgusting and abhorrent conduct, a habit and custom of conduct, that is actionable under the laws of the state of Texas. Despite Watson’s legal team’s efforts to normalize such conduct, such conduct is not normal and is legally actionable.”

Hardin issued a press release beforehand about his feedback. He has acknowledged that Watson had consensual intercourse with three of the plaintiffs. The NFL is anticipated to advocate whether or not Watson will likely be punished underneath the private conduct coverage earlier than coaching camp, with the NFL Players Association and Hardin advocating for him.

“Deshaun Watson did nothing wrong,” Hardin said. “And as two grand juries have made clear, Deshaun did nothing unlawful. Deshaun has all the time acknowledged consensual sexual exercise with three of the plaintiff therapeutic massage therapists after massages. And Deshaun has repeatedly sworn underneath oath that he didn’t pressure any of his accusers to have sexual contact.

“On a Houston radio present interview, I discussed {that a} therapeutic massage that has a ‘happy ending’ is just not unlawful, which means it’s not unlawful for somebody to have consensual intercourse with a therapist after a therapeutic massage except the intercourse is for pay. Deshaun didn’t pay anybody for intercourse. I used to be utilizing the time period hypothetically and never describing Deshaun’s case. I have reiterated to others it’s not alright to do something {that a} girl doesn’t comply with 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.”

What the lawsuit alleges

The lawsuit alleges that Watson advised the plaintiff he needed to assist a black-owned enterprise and organized a therapeutic massage on Aug. 5, 2020. He advised her that he needed her to be snug and didn’t have to put on her scrubs.

The lawsuit stated that there have been two therapeutic massage classes.

In the second therapeutic massage session on Aug. 9, 2020, the plaintiff alleged that Watson didn’t need to use the usual draping, requested to be lined by solely a small towel, and requested that she work on his internal thighs. The plaintiff stated she “became very uncomfortable.”

The lawsuit alleges graphic sexual habits, together with masturbation by the NFL participant in her presence and onto her. The lawsuit states that Watson didn’t apologize or clarify himself and paid the plaintiff $150, leaving her “humiliated and traumatized.”

Watson’s accusers name his contract ‘a big screw you’

During a phase on HBO’s Real Sports that not too long ago aired, two women took subject with Watson receiving a completely assured $230 million contract from the Browns after being traded from the Houston Texans.

“It’s identical to a giant ‘screw you,’” Solis said during an interview with HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel performed by reporter Soledad O’Brien. (*24*)

Solis, the primary accuser in opposition to Watson, additionally advised HBO she felt threatened by Watson following their therapeutic massage session.

“He just said, ‘I know you have a career to protect,’” Solis stated. “‘And I know you don’t want anyone messing with it just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.’ To me, that’s when I got really scared. That sounded like a threat to me.”

Another accuser, Kyla Hayes, characterised the contract as “sick,” including, “I felt like he’s being rewarded for bad behavior.”

Solis and Hayes each reiterated the accusations they’ve made in earlier interviews and in courtroom filings in Harris County District Court as they advised their model of what transpired within the therapeutic massage remedy classes.

Solis advised HBO, “As I’m working, he intentionally grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. And I pulled my hand away immediately, and I began crying. And I advised him that I used to be finished. I don’t wanna do that anymore.’’

Hayes stated that Watson “needed me to kinda make a V movement in his pelvic space. So go throughout his abdomen to his thighs, again to his abdomen. I simply saved massaging and did what he requested till his penis saved touching me repeatedly as I did it. He was transferring his penis forwards and backwards as my fingers moved as nicely. At some level, he did ejaculate. That was mortifying and embarrassing and disgusting.’’

Multiple sources, together with legislation enforcement officers, have stated that there isn’t a audio, video, or DNA proof, on this case.

Watson didn’t remark to HBO, with Hardin, citing the NFL’s ongoing investigation as the explanation why. Watson has been collaborating within the Browns’ organized workforce actions and hosted a number of teammates on a team-bonding journey to The Bahamas final week.

A 3-time Pro Bowl passer, Watson has denied all wrongdoing publicly and thru Hardin.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated on the league conferences that the investigation is nearing its finish however provided no timetable on when a call on potential self-discipline can be rendered.

Hardin: ‘Watson never did anything inappropriate with these women’

Hardin launched a video assertion to Pro Football Network and different shops upfront of the HBO program.

In his assertion, Hardin repeatedly denied that Watson had pressured any of the therapeutic massage therapists to have sexual relations. He acknowledged, as he did final yr on the outset of the case, that Watson had consensual sexual relations with three of the complainants.

“We just did a deposition yesterday and her deposition, her case, was the third one filed and the first one to allege force, and the world went wild over it,” Hardin stated. “Deshaun’s popularity was horrible. For 30 days, we didn’t even know who she was as a result of they had been filed anonymously. And then once we get to her deposition yesterday, she admitted underneath oath, there was no pressure. He used no pressure in opposition to her. And that is the one they gave the largest scream when this primary began.

Nobody actually needed to deal a lot with the truth that two totally different grand juries discovered there have been no legal occasions. The grand jury decides possible trigger. Is there any foundation for believing there was a criminal offense dedicated, whether or not it’s a felony or a misdemeanor? And each of these grand juries discovered no possible trigger to consider any crime in any respect was dedicated.

“That ought to have been given nice sway as a result of initially there have been allegations, he used pressure in opposition to these women. Turns out solely three of the 22 lawsuits contain any allegation of pressure after which when subjected to investigation by legislation enforcement, and presentation to a grand jury, it was discovered no pressure was used. There was no indication of a criminal offense involving any kind of pressure.

As we’ve stated, as Deshaun has insisted underneath oath, every of these three events had been consensual and instituted by the women. But within the different … 19 circumstances there was no sexual exercise. And Deshaun has already given 9 depositions – 11 now – and sworn underneath oath that there was no sexual exercise besides these three incidents, and so they had been consensual.”

Hardin acknowledged in his assertion that sexual misconduct is a big drawback in society. He emphasised that his consumer has been wrongfully accused.

“We have a tremendous social problem in this area, I agree, but the solution is not to assume every allegation is true,” Hardin stated. “Each one ought to be looked at separately and judged on its own merits. And if that happens, we’re comfortable that Deshaun has been telling the truth all along. He never did anything inappropriate with these women and certainly he never harmed them and never did anything that was not consensual.”

Another lawyer representing Watson, Leah Graham, spoke with HBO and stated the NFL participant “has no regrets because he did nothing wrong.”

“He did nothing wrong in these massages,” Graham stated. “And although,  to your first question, ‘How can he be innocent?’ I think the real question is, ‘What evidence is there of any guilt?’”

Graham was requested by HBO to clarify how Watson “unintentionally ending up having sex with people who are giving you professional massages?”

Graham replied, “Well, in every massage, I will tell you he did go, intending just for a professional massage, and only those three instances where sexual conduct occurred — consensual sexual activity — it occurred after the massage session had ended. And Mr. Watson has testified and is insistent that that sexual activity was initiated by the plaintiff in every single instance. As he testified in his depositions last week, yes, he has no regrets because he did nothing wrong. He did nothing wrong in these massages.”

Plaintiffs’ lawyer issued assertion forward of HBO’s ‘Real Sports’ program

Buzbee issued a press release upfront of this system.

“As was the case with talking with legislation enforcement and the NFL, we left the choice whether or not to talk publicly as much as the purchasers themselves,’’ Buzbee wrote. “Two selected to take action. These women are essentially the most courageous and brave I’ve ever met. This agency is extraordinarily proud to signify them. During the filming course of, I used to be impressed with HBO’s diligence and insistence on equity. Despite our requests, HBO refused to offer us beforehand the questions they supposed to ask.

“And, I can tell you, hard questions were in fact asked — not only to our clients but to me as well. This firm has been trying and winning civil cases for twenty-five years; we are extremely confident in these cases. As each witness testifies in the pre-trial discovery process, the evidence against Deshaun Watson continues to mount. The walls, as they say, are closing in. We look forward to trying these cases in court as soon as practicable. We are very confident that, in the end, justice will be done.”

Graham and Hardin have each alleged that Buzbee took the circumstances in search of publicity.

“It’s 22 women,’’ Graham stated. “It’s one lawyer. There’s just one lawyer who was prepared to take these circumstances. And as we all know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. Buzbee was not the primary, in all probability not the second or third lawyer she went to, however he was the one one to take her case. Why? Not as a result of it had advantage, however as a result of he would use these circumstances to extend his social media following and fairly frankly to get on exhibits like this one.’’

Buzbee not too long ago declared an intention so as to add the Texans as a defendant in ongoing litigation in opposition to Watson, accusing the Texans of being “well aware of Watson’s issues, but failed to act.”

It’s unclear if Buzbee will comply with by means of with litigation in opposition to the Texans or with two different civil lawsuits he had beforehand said he would file in opposition to Watson.

During a press release final month, Buzbee stated: “Based on what we have realized from the Houston Police Department, we are going to quickly be becoming a member of the Houston Texans group and others as defendants within the ongoing lawsuits in opposition to Deshaun Watson. Our workforce has completely vetted every case. We are contemplating many others. These women are the true heroes on this sordid story. What has turn into clear is that the Houston Texans group and their contracting ‘massage therapy company’ facilitated Deshaun Watson’s conduct.

“In many of these cases, the Texans provided the opportunity for this conduct to occur. We believe the Texans organization was well aware of Watson’s issues, but failed to act. They knew or certainly should have known. The Houston Texans organization provided rooms for Watson at the high-end Houstonian hotel for his ‘massages;’ the Texans also provided massage tables and other support for Watson’s proclivities — ostensibly to protect their ‘asset.’ We intend to make sure all involved in Watson’s conduct are held accountable, in addition to and including Watson himself.”

The Texans haven’t responded to Buzbee’s assertion.

On March 17, 2021, after Watson was first sued by Buzbee, the Texans issued the next assertion:

“We became aware of a civil lawsuit involving Deshaun Watson through a social media post last night. This is the first time we heard of the matter, and we hope to learn more soon. We take accusations of this nature that involve anyone within the Houston Texans organization seriously. We will await further information before making any additional statements on this incident.”

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