The attorney for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has fired back at the latest lawsuit against his client by filing several exhibits in court that appear to undermine the lawsuit’s claims, including that Watson pressured the plaintiff into oral sex at a hotel in Houston in December 2020.
Rusty Hardin, the attorney, also is asking the court in Harris County, Texas, for monetary sanctions against the attorneys who filed it to them for filing this “sham argument,” as he describes it. The suit was the 26th overall by a woman who has accused Watson of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.
Of those 26 arguments, 23 were settled out of court this year and one was dropped shortly after being filed in March 2021. Only two remain, including this new one that was filed Oct. 13, the only argument to come after Watson was given an 11-game suspension by the NFL stemming from these.
Hardin already has mounted an aggressive defense against it. In one filing, his law firm showed screen shots of text messages from the woman to Watson that came after she claimed he pressured her into oral sex during the massage session at the Houstonian Hotel.
“The documents (the woman) provided reflect that for nearly a year after their massage session together, (the woman) sent more than 35 messages to Mr. Watson—none of which were answered by Mr. Watson,” Hardin states.
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Some of the text messages show the woman asking to meet him again at the same hotel. Others appear to be sexually suggestive.
“I have the best head in all of Houston,” she wrote in September 2021, according to the filings.
“Let me know when your ready to make big deposits,” another text stated.
Hardin said the woman’s argument was filed in bad faith.
“This obviously does not sound like a person who was pressured into performing oral sex,” said the document he filed Monday evening.
Hardin already won a court order forcing the woman to reveal her name in court documents after initially filing it under the pseudonym Jane Doe. He stated the women’s attorneys filed this argument anonymously to pressure Watson “into a quick settlement.” It is the only lawsuit filed after 23 other plaintiffs reached confidential settlements with Watson to end their arguments against him this year.
“This evidence undeniably establishes that while this may be a case of unrequited love, under no stretch of the imagination is this a case of assault,” Hardin stated. “Had (the woman’s law firm) performed even the most cursory investigation, it would have confirmed that fact.”
An attorney for the plaintiff at Universal Law Group in Houston didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. USA TODAY’s policy is not to reveal the names of alleged sexual assault victims unless they decide to speak about it publicly.
Hardin’s filing also states that the plaintiff in the newest lawsuit appeared at his office on Nov. 4, 2021, in response to a discovery subpoena in the other litigation. That’s where the woman agreed to be interviewed by Watson’s counsel and provided text messages and direct messages to them, according to the filings.
During this conversation, the woman said, “I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t intimidated. I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do. I didn’t do anything where I didn’t feel like it was safe,” according to an affidavit filed by a witness to the conversation.
According to the affidavit, the woman also said, “I would love to love him. Oh my God. I would love to be in love, and to love him… I don’t want to put criminal charges on him. It wasn’t criminal. We were in there playing around and that was it.”
Watson was never arrested or charged in these cases, and he has denied any misconduct. Hardin’s filing says the Houston police also interviewed this woman and rejected them.
“Likewise, NFL investigators were fully aware of (the woman’s) and chose not to base their findings on any of her uncredible contentions,” Hardin’s filing states.
Hardin is asking the court to sanction the woman’s attorneys $5,000, which is less than one-third of the total fees and expenses Watson’s was forced to incur, according to the filing.
The incidents described in all the lawsuits allegedly came when Watson was a member of the Houston Texans. The Texans also reached confidential settlements with 30 women with claims related to Watson after being accused of enabling his behavior and failing to prevent it. The Texans traded him to the Browns in March.
This new lawsuit is the only one of the 26 not filed by the law firm of Houston attorney Tony Buzbee. After it was filed this month by another firm, the NFL Watson’s disciplinary status remained unchanged but that the league would monitor developments from it.
“Any conduct that warrants further investigation or possible additional sanctions would be addressed within the Personal Conduct Policy” of the league, spokesman Brian McCarthy said then.
The NFL investigated the various women’s claims and sought to suspend Watson for at least a year. But an agreement was reached to suspend him only 11 games after the league appealed an initial six-game suspension from an independent disciplinary officer in August.
That disciplinary officer ruled the NFL carried its burden to prove that Watson engaged in sexual assault, as defined by the NFL, against the four therapists identified in the league’s report on the matter.
The first 23 lawsuits were filed in March and April of 2021. Two more were filed in May and June of this year, followed by this latest action in civil court.
Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deshaun Watson lawyer slams new argument with evidence against accuser