Lawsuit accuses Deshaun Watson of deleting Instagram messages, contacting women in attempt to settle cases

BySarah Barshop ESPN logo
Tuesday, March 30, 2021

HOUSTON -- Three new lawsuits accusing Deshaun Watson of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct were filed Sunday night, including one that claims the Houston Texans quarterback is deleting Instagram messages and contacting the women "who formally provided him massages, in an attempt to settle" those cases.

All three lawsuits accuse Watson of sexually assaulting women during massage sessions by "purposely" touching them with his penis and state that his "behavior is part of a disturbing pattern."

The third lawsuit also includes the accusation that Watson is deleting the Instagram messages and contacting the plaintiffs "as a result of the repeated lawsuits against him."

"Plaintiffs have not brought these cases for money or attention; instead Plaintiffs seek a change in behavior with regard to Watson, and a change of culture in the NFL," said the lawsuit, filed by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee.

Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, said Monday in a statement that Watson has not deleted any Instagram messages over the last two weeks and "categorically" denied that his client contacted any of the women directly.

"Like a lot of people, Deshaun regularly deletes past Instagram messages," Hardin said. "That said, he has not deleted any messages since March 15th, the day before the first lawsuit was filed. We categorically deny that he has reached out directly to his accusers in an attempt to settle these cases."

The three new lawsuits, which were available Monday morning on the Harris County District Clerk's website, bring the total number of lawsuits filed against Watson to 19.

Watson has publicly denied any wrongdoing, and Hardin said last week that he believes "any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false."

Later Monday, Sports Illustrated published an account from a Houston massage therapist who says Watson displayed inappropriate conduct when she massaged him.

The woman has not filed a lawsuit against Watson but told SI she is speaking out because she wants "a genuine apology" from Watson, "for us and our community, for putting us in these situations where we don't know what to do."

The woman, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told SI that while "Watson did not touch her, nor did he force her into conducting any sexual acts," he did "engage in behavior that was both inappropriate and unlike any other interaction she's had with any of her more than 1,000 clients."

The alleged incident described in the SI report took place in the fall of 2019; in the 19 lawsuits filed against Watson, the earliest incident took place in 2020.

Hardin said in a statementlast week that his law firm has "strong evidence" showing that one of the lawsuits alleging sexual assault is false and that it "calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases as well."

Buzbee said earlier this month that he would submit affidavits and evidence from several women to the Houston Police Department and the Houston district attorney. Buzbee also said he will request that a grand jury consider the evidence and determine whether charges should be brought against Watson by the state of Texas.

Dane Schiller, a spokesperson for the Harris County district attorney, said last week that it would be "inappropriate" for the DA's office to comment on the lawsuits against Watson.

"It would be inappropriate for the District Attorney's Office to comment on a civil lawsuit, and we refrain from publicly discussing allegations in any matter until and if a criminal charge is filed; we do this out of fairness to all," Schiller said in a statement.

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy has stated that "the matter is under review" pertaining to the league's personal conduct policy, and the Texans said in a statement that they would stay in close contact with the NFL during its investigation.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Tuesday that the union would also monitor the situation.

"We monitor these cases and if it results in an investigation by the league with respect to the personal conduct policy, we'll become involved in that," Smith said during an interview with ESPN's Keyshawn, JWill and Zubin. "Other than that -- you know historically I don't comment on open cases -- but we are continuing to monitor it as it might impact this young man and the personal conduct policy."

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