The opposing lawyers in the 16 civil cases of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson’s alleged sexual assaults are not waiting to get inside the courtroom to begin arguing.
First, Tony Buzbee, who represents the 16 women, held a press conference in which his office detailed at least one case of alleged sexual assault against a massage therapist. Then, Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin responded. It didn’t take long for Buzbee to return serve.
“Alleged sexual misconduct is serious,” Buzbee wrote on Facebook. “Attempting to criminalize or minimize those that speak out or step forward is wrong. I have been asked to respond to a released statement by Mr. Watson’s counsel.
“My first reaction is that there have been so many massage sessions from Instagram that Mr. Watson can’t keep track of them — recall he, on Twitter, initially criticized me and denied everything. I can’t tell you how many people have stepped forward to report similar conduct or provide information. That info will be released, again in public filings — not in the media.”
Hardin’s initial response claimed that Watson was the victim of a $30,000 blackmail attempt for “indefinite silence” by a woman who, according to Watson’s marketing manager Bryan Burney, described her encounter with Watson as “consensual.” While advocating for the rights and courage of sexual assault victims, Hardin believes the unidentified accuser is one of the 16 Jane Does filing lawsuits and therefore that should call into question the legitimacy of all connected allegations.
While Hardin’s statement does not seem to indicate that Watson paid for consensual sex, that is Buzbee’s interpretation.
“My second reaction is a question: Why would his marketing agent admit Watson had sex for pay with a massage therapist, consensual or otherwise?” Buzbee said. “We will also provide a copy of the non-disclosure agreement that Deshaun Watson and his marketing manager repeatedly insisted that Jane Doe (and others) sign after (and sometimes before) 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.”
Friday will be less than five weeks until the NFL Draft and the last time it makes football sense for the Texans to meet Watson’s demand to be traded – if there is still a market while he is under the cloud of accusation.