At least seven civil lawsuits have been filed against the star Texans QB, with five more on the way, says attorney Tony Buzbee.
TONY BUZBEE: Now, as has been widely reported, we have filed lawsuits on behalf of seven women against Deshaun Watson for civil assault. And you should all know that before we filed the first lawsuit, I personally visited with the plaintiff multiple times. I understood that this case would generate a lot of interest. I wanted to make damn sure that what she was saying was plausible, was right and true.
And I was convinced, after visiting with her, that she was telling the absolute truth. And to be quite honest, she's a very brave person. A very brave person. Her story certainly passes the smell test. She is brave and truthful.
Of course, when she told me the story about what had happened to her, like many of you, I wondered. Why would someone like Deshaun Watson-- who's probably has access to 40 or 50 trainers, masseuses, and the like-- why would he reach out to individuals on Instagram? And that's a question that maybe you should ask him or his lawyer. I wondered that. I assume, like perhaps you do, that he has a large team of people that can handle any massage needs that he had.
We are now representing 12 women. And we will file the remaining cases, the additional five cases in due course, as we do our due diligence. You should also know that we've also spoken to more than 10 additional women. So more than 22 women that we've spoken to who have reported conduct similar to that laid out in our public filings.
And I want to say this to any woman out there that's had an experience like this. And I want to be very clear about this. If you are a victim of sexual assault, hear me. Contact our office. You can remain anonymous. We want to hear from you. We want to hear your story. And we want your voice to be heard.
I want to tell you a little bit about the 12 clients we currently represent. Most of these women work in the massage industry. Some work at spas, some work from their homes, some will go to the Houstonian or the like for a massage session. These are, for the most part, licensed professionals.
These are people that many of them are single mothers, either own their own shop or work for a spa. Seven of these women that we filed lawsuits on behalf are African-American, two are Hispanic, and three are Caucasian. Three of them are married, one is engaged, and like I say, many are single mothers.
All of the cases that we have filed-- and we have vetted each one very carefully-- allege the same or similar conduct. Three of the women that we represent are undergoing intensive therapy as a result of the defendant's conduct. You should know that at least one of these women was referred to Deshaun Watson by the Texans organization. As recent as last week, the quarterback coach, Quincy Avery, referred Deshaun Watson to one of my clients.
In fact, you should know that even-- and you've heard Mr. Watson's, his tweet where he says, you know, we were seeking publicity-- which is silly on its face-- or that this was all about money. We actually had contact with Deshaun Watson's agent-slash-lawyer from Los Angeles, who minimized these allegations, who did not take them seriously. We wanted to resolve this matter without a lawsuit, without any publicity.
We knew that once we filed a lawsuit-- Texas, of course, has an open courts provision in the Constitution, so all lawsuits are public, and we wanted to avoid that. What we received instead of cooperation with Mr. Watson's agent was dismissive behavior and, frankly, incredible arrogance.
Even after we had discussions with Mr. Watson's lawyer at the time, before he hired Rusty Hardin, one of the clients that we represent-- even after we had had correspondence and after we had talked to Mr. Watson's lawyer, he did it again. I mean, this conduct happened as recently as this month.
The cases we have filed, these public cases-- which are on file and everybody can see them. We even have copies for you here-- allege civil assault. Civil assault under Texas law is intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with a plaintiff when the defendant knows or should know that the plaintiff would regard such contact as offensive.
Now, we know that in this case there's a major power differential. You have a star quarterback who is physically and financially powerful versus single moms who work for themselves, mostly from home. One of the parties is famous, known internationally. The other is unknown, marginalized, and easy to criticize and minimize.
And here's what you should know. This case isn't about money. If you look at the pleadings that we filed carefully, we have pled the jurisdictional minimums in the state of Texas. The jurisdictional minimum in state district court is $500. The case ain't about money. And it's certainly is not about seeking publicity or fame. I personally don't need it and these women don't want it.
This case is about female empowerment, taking the power back. These women who are stepping forward knew that they would face scorn and ridicule. They all agreed to plead for the minimal jurisdictional limits of the court. And they bring these cases for one reason only, stopping further misconduct from this defendant and any others like him. And that's what the case has always been about. Stopping this alleged behavior and preventing this alleged behavior from happening again.
Now, let me talk to the armchair quarterbacks. Boy, this world. It's funny how people are so emboldened when they're behind their keyboard on social media. The same people that would never look you in the eye when you walk down the street, they'll call you every name in the book on social media. The know-it-alls, the people that think they know what I know and what my colleagues know.
We won't be deterred. Your comments don't deter us. You know, I stopped counting at 10 death threats. And not only threats to me, but threats to my children, to my colleagues here at this table, to even people that were just commenters on my Facebook or social media pages.
I've handled some of the largest cases in this state. I represented Rick Perry when he was a sitting governor and was facing life in prison. I sued the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi. I sued Stanley Marsh. If you look right behind you and you see that picture there, where you see Cadillac Ranch where it says "is no longer owned by Stanley Marsh," the reason for that is sitting right here.
I've handled cases like this before. We won't be deterred. We're prepared and we do our homework. At the end of the day, we're talking about football. Let's not forget we're talking about football. What we should be talking about is human dignity and the way women are treated. That's what we should be talking about.
We are a society where we typically don't believe the accuser and we blame the victim, and by proxy we blame her lawyers. And I need to dispel some silly rumors. Yes, I live on River Oaks Boulevard and I live near the McNair family. I don't know the McNair family. I wouldn't recognize Cal or Hal, or whatever his name is, if I saw him on the street.
This case has nothing to do with the Texans, has nothing to do with free agency. The timing-- I don't know anything about that silliness, and I, frankly, don't care about it. Texans are not a team that I follow. This case is instead about women, brave women, brave women who are willing to step forward knowing that they will be criticized and ostracized. And we should all get behind them, applaud them for their bravery, and support them.
So here is what we know. The civil cases will proceed. Ultimately we will file 12 cases, seven are now publicly filed. I've been in contact with attorney Rusty Hardin, who I've known for many years, and he has agreed to accept civil process for the cases that we continue to file.
I've informally been contacted by the Houston Police Department. It is our intention for the clients that are willing to do so to put together a package and to submit it to the Houston Police Department of the information that we have. It's been publicly reported that the NFL is investigating. We will, of course, participate and cooperate with that to the extent we can do so, given our civil court obligations.
And with that, I'm going to turn the microphone over to Cornelia, who's worked very hard on this matter, and let her detail for you a couple of the cases. And again, she's going to be reading directly from what's been publicly filed. And then I'll wrap it up and answer any questions that you may have. Cornelia.
- Thank you, Tony. Yeah, as Tony said, I'm going to be reading directly from the pleadings that are already on file. The first one I'll be reading from are some excerpts from one that was filed March 18. And these incidents happened September and October 2020.
We have an African-American woman. She's a licensed esthetician. She's been in the business for about nine years. Originally Watson wanted to give her a massage. She heard this from her boss. She obviously declined, thought it was odd, but she want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
So a session occurred starting in September, and during this session, Watson got completely naked. He got an erection and he asked her what she was going to do about that erection. Plaintiff was scared and confused and didn't want to cause trouble. She also feared what Watson would do to her career if she caused a scene. She felt powerless and ashamed.
In one of the other sessions, Watson escalated his behavior. He tried to put his penis in Plaintiff's hand and asked her if she would touch his penis. Plaintiff was in shock and was shaking. Watson also continuously moved his body in a way that caused his penis to touch Plaintiff's hand. He insisted that Plaintiff keep focusing on his groin area.
He was upset that plaintiff was fully clothed and told her she was wearing too many clothes. He also tried to kiss her on the mouth. Plaintiff cut the session short. She felt violated, terrified, and disgusted. Plaintiff is suffering from panic attacks, depression, anxiety, she is in counseling, she has difficulty sleeping. That's one of the petitions
The second one I'll be reading from, this was filed March 17. This incident happened December 2020. We have another African-American woman, a licensed massage therapist. She had been in business since 2018. She was newly engaged. She had graduated chiropractic school. She was really excited.
Watson reached out to her on Instagram and asked for a session. Plaintiff was excited that someone like Deshaun would want to get a massage from her, as she was trying to expand her client base. And then a massage ultimately scheduled December 28, in the morning in an office building. Her mom helped her get set up for the massage. Her mother eventually left.
Watson arrived, plaintiff left the room to let him get undressed. And when she came back in, he was laying on the massage table, completely naked with only towel covering his buttocks. Plaintiff was extremely confused, as normally you're supposed to be fully draped. Throughout the session, Watson refused to fully cover himself, even at Plaintiff's requests.
He also made clear repeatedly that he was a professional football player who could help or hurt her career. During this session, Watson forcibly told Plaintiff to move her hand towards his pubic area. He also instructed her to slide her hand across his genitals. Plaintiff started shaking, and Watson knew she was afraid.
She was intimidated and felt threatened by him. She was afraid of what someone like Watson could do. He kept coercing and intimidating her to the point where he coerced her to move her mouth towards his penis, forcing her to perform oral sex on him. Plaintiff did not consent to any of this conduct. She blacked out with fear. She was terrified. She felt helpless.
After he was finished, he offered no apology. Plaintiff was shaking, violated, and ashamed. She was so shaken that she defecated on herself and ran to the bathroom to clean herself up. She still questions herself to this day what she could have done to prevent this conduct.
She is in intensive counseling, she can't sleep, her relationship with her fiance has suffered. She suffers from depression and anxiety. She can't bring up his name without sobbing uncontrollably. She's bringing this lawsuit, as are the other women, to prevent Watson from doing this type of conduct to another woman. Tony, I'll turn it over to you.
TONY BUZBEE: So we've been very careful about-- the things that we've said are things that are filed in a public pleading. And that's what Cornelia was reading from. These are very serious cases that we've done a lot of due diligence on before we brought them. And so we will take a few questions before we wrap this up.
- When you filed the first suit on Tuesday night, how many of these women had you talked to?
TONY BUZBEE: Just two. And that's why I say she was so brave. You know, let's just be honest about this. I mean, when you make these kinds of allegations, the first thing that people think is it's a money grab and they blame the victim. And that's why I spent so much time with her, me and Cornelia spent a lot of time with her, making sure that I was comfortable because I understand.
I mean, there's a reason all of you are here. But once she made that outcry and once we filed the case-- and we agonized over whether we were going to bring the case-- but once we did, a lot of women have come forward. More than 20 and I would expect if-- women who are watching this now, know that you can remain anonymous. Know that you have a support system. Know that we want to hear your story. I would expect others.
- Out of the 22 women that you guys have reached out to or heard from, any filed police reports prior to this civil suit being filed?
TONY BUZBEE: Not that I'm aware of, no. And that's going to be our next step.
- You mentioned that one of the women--
TONY BUZBEE: With a mask on, it's hard to see who's talking, sorry. I thought it was Mario. Go ahead.
- You mentioned that one of the women you spoke to, Watson was referred to her by the Texans, and then you also mentioned Quincy Avery in the next sentence. Those are two separate women?
TONY BUZBEE: Two separate women. And let me clarify that if I went over that too quickly. A woman who we just recently spoke to and just recently signed a contract with us to bring a case, Watson was referred to her by Mr. Avery, the quarterback coach. I should say the personal quarterback coach for Deshaun Watson. One of the other women that we represent was referred to-- Watson was referred by one of the trainers on the team.
- Tony, are all the women Texas based? At least travel--
TONY BUZBEE: All but one. One woman was flown in from Georgia.
- This said, is there any potential federal component here because the person came in from out of state? Have you made contact with--
TONY BUZBEE: I will let the authorities deal with that. I won't comment on that.
- Have you heard anything from--?
TONY BUZBEE: No, I haven't.
- And how about Harris County Sheriff's office?
TONY BUZBEE: I haven't heard. I've only been reached out to informally by an individual with the Houston Police Department that I'm familiar with. I wouldn't say a friend, but certainly somebody I know. And our intention is to put together a package and to submit it to the police department.
- Tony, can you talk about the timeline for filing a criminal complaint or reaching out to--
TONY BUZBEE: We haven't decided that yet. Obviously, you know, we want to get all the civil cases on file, and the next step would be to put together a package. I mean, we did the same thing with Stanley Marsh.
You may recall when we had 15, 20 cases against Stanley Marsh in Amarillo, we started filing lawsuits, we put together a package, we submitted it to the local DA, who quickly recused himself. The Potter County DA recused himself. They brought in the Lubbock DA, who indicted Mr. Marsh on 12 counts of abuse of children. Mr. Marsh unfortunately died before he was prosecuted.
And so that's the way we're going to handle this. We're going to get all the lawsuits on file first, put together a package, submit it to the police department. We're not sure. Not every victim may want to come forward. I mean, let's not forget, it takes a lot of courage, a lot of courage to step forward when you're dealing with somebody powerful, when you're dealing with, you know-- Like it or not, you know, sports is big. People blindly and irrationally follow sports and are loathe to believe victims. That's just the way it is. And so--
- When you say the 22-- I'm sorry to interrupt-- but when you say the 22, I'm just looking for a proper way to characterize. 22 people you've vetted? 22 people you've talked to?
TONY BUZBEE: 12 people that we've vetted, that we've signed, 10 more that we're talking to that have the same or similar allegations.
- So Houston's a big city, but it's also a small town in many ways.
TONY BUZBEE: It is.
- Do these women have-- did any of them know one another?
TONY BUZBEE: They didn't know-- no, not at all.
- So 11 of the victims are from Houston, one from Atlanta, and then one of the incidents, the latest one, occurred this month.
TONY BUZBEE: This month, right.
- And that happened, you said, after you had a discussion with Watson's--
TONY BUZBEE: After I'd already had multiple conversations with Watson's lawyer-slash-agent out of Los Angeles,
- One of these alleged incidents that happened after that?
TONY BUZBEE: Correct?
- Who did you speak to? Which of his agents did you speak to?
TONY BUZBEE: Do remember the guy's name? Scott Gaffield? Scott Gaffield. I didn't know him from Adam. I mean, he's just some guy that called me and--
- When was that, though, exactly?
TONY BUZBEE: I'm going to say more than a month ago.
- Think it was more than a month. It was definitely February.
TONY BUZBEE: Yeah.
- So you're saying that Deshaun's representation has known about these allegations for more than a month?
TONY BUZBEE: Correct.
- Have the Houston Texans known about it?
TONY BUZBEE: I don't know anything about what they know or don't know.
- How would you characterize the inquiries made by the Texans to you, as well the NFL?
TONY BUZBEE: I've had no contact with the Texans. None. The only correspondence I've had from the NFL was one that I posted-- I reposted because I didn't want to put her personal cell phone on there-- and that's the contact that I've had with the NFL.
- Tony, what does it say that Deshaun wanted went out and hired Rusty Hardin?
TONY BUZBEE: I don't know. Ask Rusty that.
- You spoke earlier about the social media critics. What do you say to them about the ones that said, the initial reaction was when you put it on Instagram.
TONY BUZBEE: I understand their initial reaction, but I knew a lot more than they did. I knew what was going on.
- Were you surprised with how quickly so many women have come forward in this case?
TONY BUZBEE: You know, we haven't really cogitated on that, but I mean, certainly a lot of people have come forward. Our thought was, when we filed the first case, if it happened once, it's probably happened more than once. And that was kind of our feeling, and we were right on that. And with that guys, I think we're done. Thank you.
- Thank you.