HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- At least half a dozen women who filed civil lawsuits against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson joined their lawyer in court Thursday for a routine hearing that was anything but routine.
So far, 22 women have filed civil lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual assault or harassment during scheduled massage sessions.
Click through this immersive experience to read about each of the 22 lawsuits. For a better experience on the app, click here to see the experience on its own page.
Of those, several appeared in person Thursday, while at least two plaintiffs joined by Zoom.
A normal status conference would be something conducted by lawyers and the judge presiding in the case. Clients are not usually present.
"They're here because they've been called liars and they're not liars," said plaintiffs' attorney Tony Buzbee.
The women did not speak, but they did not have to. Their presence was significant, and according attorney Steve Shellist, who is not involved in the case, it made a point.
"I think, one, he did it to try to lend an additional layer of credibility," said Shellist. "These are real people who made these allegations."
As the women watched from the audience section of the courtroom, Watson's attorney Rusty Hardin and Buzbee argued over the more mundane details of civil lawsuits. The judge wanted both sides to agree to consolidate the management of the cases so routine motions would not have to be filed 22 times.
The attorneys were mostly agreeable. However, fireworks came out when each side accused the other of deleting Instagram messages and posts that could be harmful to their case.
"Deshaun Watson has 'unsent' a lot of his messages on Instagram, and we'll deal with it when time comes."
"People delete messages every day. We all delete messages," said Shellist. "The problem is, when we're involved in litigation, you're not allowed to do that."
The judge told both attorneys to preserve all evidence, and not delete anything. However, it was clear that she believed both attorneys, veterans of civil court, knew what to do and what not to do. The warnings seemed, in open court, to be unnecessary theater.
"She made clear she didn't think it was going to be a big deal," said Hardin, who viewed this hearing as standard procedure. "She just thought she was inviting the lawyers down for a scheduling. There was nothing of substance done."
To be sure, Thursday's hearing could have been completed in a simple Zoom call. But that was never going to happen.
"Everything's been a big deal thus far, right? Everything's been a show thus far," remarked Shellist. "So why would today be any different?
The next status hearing is set for May 7.
READ LAWSUITS IN FULL:
The lawsuits contain explicit language that can be considered graphic. Viewer discretion is advised.
- Lawsuit 1: Allegations from March 2020
- Lawsuit 2: Allegations from Aug. 2020
- Lawsuit 3: Allegations from Dec. 2020
- Lawsuit 4: Allegations from Sept. 2020
- Lawsuit 5: Allegations from June 2020
- Lawsuit 6: Allegations from Oct. and Nov. 2020
- Lawsuit 7: Allegations from Sept. and Oct. 2020
- Lawsuit 8: Allegations from March 2021
- Lawsuit 9: Allegations from June and August 2020
- Lawsuit 10: Allegations from Jan. 2021
- Lawsuit 11: Allegations from August 2020
- Lawsuit 12: Allegations from July 2020
- Lawsuit 14: Allegations from July 2020
- Lawsuit 15: Allegations from October 2020
- Lawsuit 16: Allegations from May 2020
- Lawsuit 17: Houston massage therapist's allegations from October 2020
- Lawsuit 18: Allegations from 3 separate massage sessions in 2020
- Lawsuit 19: Flight attendant who also massages part-time alleges sexual assault from November 2020
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