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Deshaun Watson Settles 20 Lawsuits Accusing Him of Sexual Misconduct


Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns quarterback, has reached settlements with 20 of the 24 women who’ve filed sexual misconduct lawsuits against him, the lawyer Tony Buzbee announced Tuesday morning. In a press release, Buzbee, who represents Watson’s accusers, said that the terms and amounts of the settlements were confidential and that those cases could be dismissed once finalized.

Reached by phone, Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said he had no comment but didn’t deny settlements had been reached.

The primary public allegation against Watson of sexual misconduct during a massage appointment was made in March 2021, leading to an avalanche of lawsuits filed by additional women. Buzbee said that Ashley Solis, who filed the initial lawsuit, was one among the 4 women who had not settled.

The claims against Watson involved massage appointments he had in 2020 and early 2021, when he played for the Houston Texans. He was traded to Cleveland in March after a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, declined to indict him on criminal charges. The Browns gave Watson an unprecedented, fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.

But Watson has faced additional pressure in recent weeks, with two recent women filing lawsuits against him. Buzbee also said that he planned so as to add the Texans as a defendant after a Recent York Times investigation showed that the team provided the venue Watson used for a few of the massage appointments and furnished him with a nondisclosure agreement. Buzbee said Tuesday that the Texans weren’t a celebration to the settlements.

The Cleveland Browns quarterback has been accused of harassment and assault by a growing list of female massage therapists.

Watson and his accusers had previously entered into settlement negotiations before the N.F.L. trade deadline last November. In line with Hardin, one interested team, the Miami Dolphins, wouldn’t move forward with a possible trade until all of the civil suits against Watson were resolved. In a recent court filing, Buzbee said that Watson’s representatives offered each woman $100,000 to settle but not the entire women agreed due to what he characterised as an “aggressive nondisclosure agreement.”

Asked in a news conference during Browns minicamp last week if he was open to settling the civil cases, Watson said he desired to “clear my name and give you the chance to let the facts and the legal procedures proceed to play out.” He also said again that he had “never forced” anyone into sexual intercourse. Through his lawyers, Watson acknowledged having sexual contact with three of the ladies who sued him but claimed it was consensual and initiated by the ladies after the massage ended.

The settlements come because the N.F.L. is considering discipline for Watson under its personal conduct policy. League investigators spent 4 days interviewing Watson inside the last five weeks, Hardin has said, which is mostly one among the ultimate steps in the method. The N.F.L. spokesman Brian McCarthy said that the settlements had “no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process.”

Buzbee referred to Solis as “one among the heroes of this story.” In her lawsuit, Solis said that Watson purposely touched her hand together with his exposed and erect penis during a March 2020 massage appointment. Watson admitted in a deposition that Solis had turn out to be “teary-eyed,” and after he left, he apologized over text for her feeling “uncomfortable.” Solis reached out to industry colleagues in addition to lawyers for advice on easy methods to reply to what had happened, and in December 2020, she was connected with Buzbee’s law firm.

“Without Ashley Solis, the conduct experienced by these women would likely have continued unfettered,” Buzbee said in his statement. He added that he looks forward to trying the cases of Solis and the three other women who haven’t settled “in the end.”

The Times’s investigation showed that Watson engaged in additional questionable behavior than was previously known, extending beyond the claims made by the 24 women who filed lawsuits: He booked appointments with no less than 66 different women within the 17 months from fall 2019 through spring 2021. A number of of those additional women, speaking publicly for the primary time, described experiences that undercut Watson’s insistence that he was only in search of skilled massage therapy.

The Times’s reporting also found that within the two months leading as much as the Harris County grand jury’s considering of the cases against Watson, Hardin began a daily dialogue with Johna Stallings, the sex crimes prosecutor handling the investigation. In January, Stallings got here to Hardin’s office for a gathering during which Hardin said he and his team “made a presentation reflecting the deposition testimony and evidence referring to each of the criminal complainants.”

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