The accusations have been frequent and startling: greater than two dozen women have said the football star Deshaun Watson harassed or assaulted them during massage appointments that Watson and his lawyers insist were innocuous.
Two grand juries in Texas this 12 months declined to charge him criminally and, while the N.F.L. considers whether to discipline him, he has gotten one other job, signing a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract to play quarterback for the Cleveland Browns this coming season.
It’s time, Watson and his representatives say, for everybody to maneuver on.
Yet a Latest York Times examination of records, including depositions and evidence for the civil lawsuits in addition to interviews of a number of the women, showed that Watson engaged in additional questionable behavior than previously known.
The Times’s review also showed that Watson’s conduct was enabled, knowingly or not, by the team he played for on the time, the Houston Texans, which provided the venue Watson used for a number of the appointments. A team representative also furnished him with a nondisclosure agreement after a lady who’s now suing him threatened online to reveal his behavior.
Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lawyer, said his client “continues to vehemently deny” the allegations within the lawsuits. He declined to reply intimately to The Times’s questions, but said in a press release, “We will say when the actual facts are known this issue will appear in a unique light.”
The Texans didn’t reply to specific questions on Watson’s use of team resources. They said in a press release that they first learned of the allegations against him in March 2021, have cooperated with investigators and “will proceed to accomplish that.”
A spokesman for the Browns said the team had no immediate comment. An N.F.L. spokesman declined to comment, saying the Watson matter is under review.
Watson has said publicly that he hired about 40 different therapists across his five seasons in Houston, but The Times’s reporting found that he booked appointments with not less than 66 different women in only 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 looking for skilled massage therapy.
One woman, who didn’t sue Watson or complain to the police, told The Times that he was persistent in his requests for sexual acts during their massage, including “begging” her to place her mouth on his penis.
“I specifically needed to say, ‘No, I can’t try this,’” said the lady, who spoke on condition of anonymity to guard her family’s privacy. “And that’s after I went into asking him, ‘What’s it like being famous? Like, what’s happening? You’re about to mess up every little thing.’”
An Appointment with an Acquaintance
Before Watson was drafted by the Texans twelfth overall in 2017, he was a championship-winning quarterback at Gainesville (Ga.) High School and Clemson University.
N.F.L. teams widely viewed him as a prospective franchise quarterback with no known character issues, and he appeared to be living as much as his billing. When Hurricane Harvey walloped Houston in August 2017, before Watson’s rookie season, he donated his first game check to stadium cafeteria employees who were affected by the storm.
For the reason that first wave of suits were filed against Watson last 12 months, the major allegations against him have develop into familiar. Women complained that Watson turned massages sexual without their consent, including purposely touching them along with his penis and coercing sexual acts.
It’s not clear when he began in search of so many alternative women to present him massages. Hardin has said his client needed to book appointments “ad hoc” when the coronavirus pandemic began, though Watson began working with quite a few women before then.
Not all the women who gave Watson massages between October 2019 and March 2021 have detailed their interactions with him. Some who’ve shared their experiences say that they had no problems with him. Others describe troubling — and similar — behaviors.
Deshaun Watson’s Troubling Behavior
The Cleveland Browns quarterback has been accused of harassment and assault by a growing list of female massage therapists.
The 66 women are:
The 24 who’ve sued him, including two who filed suits throughout the last week. In probably the most recent suit, the lady said Watson masturbated throughout the massage.
A lady who sued but then withdrew the criticism due to “privacy and security concerns.”
Two women who filed criminal complaints against Watson but didn’t sue him.
Not less than 15 therapists who issued statements of support for Watson on the request of his lawyers and gave him massages during that period.
Not less than 4 therapists from Real Touch, the massage therapy group contracted with the Texans.
Five women identified by the plaintiffs’ lawyers throughout the investigation for his or her civil suits.
Not less than 15 other women whose appointments with Watson were confirmed through interviews and records reviewed by The Times.
A deeper take a look at the civil suits, including a review of personal messages entered as evidence, shows the lengthy efforts by Watson to book massages and the methods he used to guarantee women that he may very well be trusted.
One woman who sued Watson was a flight attendant who began taking massage therapy classes throughout the pandemic. She and Watson were in the identical social circle, but Watson acknowledged in a deposition that that they had never really spoken except to say hello.
In November 2020, after a friendly exchange on Instagram, Watson saw that the lady was a massage therapist and sent a message asking for an appointment. As they struggled to work out a time, Watson told her, “Just tryna support black businesses,” a message he repeated later.
Watson frequently presented himself as an ally to businesswomen. Within the suit filed this week, the therapist alleged that he told her that he “really desired to support” Black businesses, and on one other occasion, he left a lady perplexed when he purchased 30 bottles of her $40 skin cleanser.
In messages to the lady, whom he knew from his social circle, Watson asked to fulfill at The Houstonian, an upscale hotel and club where the Texans had secured a membership for him. She said she wasn’t comfortable going to a hotel because she knew Watson’s girlfriend — and indeed had once babysat her and her younger brother. The lady told Watson she desired to keep things “skilled and respectful.”
“Oh most definitely at all times skilled,” he texted. “I also have a NDA I even have therapist sign too.” He was referring to the N.D.A. he had received just days earlier from a member of the Texans’ security staff. Watson didn’t explain within the text how the lady would profit from signing a document meant to guard him.
Finally, the lady suggested they meet at her mother’s home in Manvel, a 30-minute drive for Watson. He responded, “Rattling thats far,” but agreed to make the trip.
Within the civil suit the lady filed against Watson last 12 months, she said she was uneasy along with his directions to “stand up in there” throughout the massage, but chalked it as much as her inexperience and agreed to work with him again. When he ejaculated throughout the second appointment after which asked her for an additional massage later that day on the Houstonian, she first agreed, then told him she couldn’t make it. She eventually blocked his number.
A lot of the women Watson saw for massages didn’t sue or call the police. But even some who didn’t complain said Watson got here in search of sex.
The lady who sold bottles of cleanser to Watson had a couple of appointments with him throughout the summer of 2020. This aesthetician, who spoke on condition of anonymity to guard her privacy, told Watson when he booked an appointment that she was licensed only to present him a back facial. But she said in an interview with The Times that he got fully undressed and directed her toward his groin. While she said there was no sexual contact, she believed that he was looking for greater than knowledgeable massage.
Watson and his lawyers have said he was only looking for massages. The lawyers have acknowledged that Watson had sexual contact with three of the ladies who’ve sued him. However the sexual acts took place after the massages, they said, and were initiated by the ladies. Asked whether he was asserting that Watson never had sexual contact with another massage therapists, Hardin didn’t respond.
One other woman who spoke to The Times, a physical therapist who didn’t sue Watson, said he initiated sexual contact in all three of their appointments.
This woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to guard her privacy, said in an interview she began by working on Watson’s back. But when he flipped over, she said his demeanor and voice modified, and he began aggressively dictating where he wanted her to the touch him. Of their first session, she said he got into the comfortable baby yoga pose — on his back along with his feet in his hands — and asked her to massage between his testicles and anus. She laughed off the request but said he grabbed her wrist and put her hand there.
The lady said Watson twice initiated sexual activity, once by flattening the scrubs she was wearing. She and Watson knew one another from around town and were on friendly terms, and she or he admitted she let him proceed with these sexual acts. “I just didn’t know methods to tell him no,” she said.
Hardin said in a press release: “It could be irresponsible and premature for us to comment on vague details put forth by anonymous individuals.”
A $5,000 Payment
In June 2020, Watson began frequenting a spa in a strip mall off Interstate 45, not less than a 30-minute drive from his home or work. He had found A Latest U Spa on Instagram and sent a message. The owner, Dionne Louis, became a resource for Watson, capable of connect him with multiple women for massages.
She looked out for him, she said in a deposition, sometimes arranging for a security guard when Watson got here in, concerned the expensive cars he drove might make him a goal for a robbery. She also got things from him. In November 2020, Watson paid her $5,000 through an app, she said, to purchase spa equipment. Louis told one in all her employees in a text, “I told you I’ll show you methods to get money from men that’s my specialty.”
Louis and her lawyer didn’t reply to requests for comment.
Through the months Louis and Watson worked together, she arrange appointments for him with several women who worked there, none of whom was licensed in Texas to perform massages.
One was the lady who said Watson begged her for oral sex.
She described how he tried to accumulate to sexual acts, starting along with his request that she work on his behind and go higher up on his inner thighs, which put her hands uncomfortably near his testicles. When he flipped over, she said, he was exposed with an erection, but she refused his requests for oral sex.
That woman didn’t sue Watson, but 4 other employees of A Latest U Spa did. All of them said of their lawsuits that Louis gave him special attention.
In June 2020, one woman said in her suit, Louis drove her to a hotel to fulfill Watson for a massage, during which he groped her and touched her hand along with his penis. Louis was not within the room, but in text messages she later sent to this woman, she appeared to check with Watson treating her employees poorly: “I been talking to Deshaun I just told his ass off he got it now.” Louis added in a second message, “I told him he can’t treat us black women any form of way.” (In her deposition, Louis denied sending these messages, though evidence within the civil suits indicates they were sent from her number.)
Nia Smith, who also worked at A Latest U Spa, filed a lawsuit against Watson last week, the twenty third of 24 civil cases. Smith said that in their first massage, Watson asked her to place her fingers inside his anus, a request she said she told Louis about afterward. She said within the second session he asked her if she wanted his penis in her mouth, and that he repeatedly requested sex of their third and final massage. Smith also claimed that Louis knew Watson was looking for sex and told her she needed to maintain Watson comfortable. In a deposition, Louis denied she knew anything about Watson’s sexual desires.
In early November 2020, after Smith stopped working at A Latest U Spa, she posted text messages from Watson along along with his phone number and his Money App receipts on Instagram. She included the message, “I could really expose you,” adding an expletive.
Help From the Texans
Days later, when Watson went to work on the Texans’ stadium, he found an N.D.A. in his locker. He later said in a deposition that Brent Naccara, a former Secret Service agent who’s the Texans’ director of security, put it there after Watson told him about Smith’s Instagram posts.
Watson began taking the N.D.A. to massages that very same week, giving one to the lady in Manvel, who signed it, and one other to a lady who said in her lawsuit that she ended the session after he suggested a sexual act. Watson told her she needed to sign up order for him to pay, so she did, in response to her filing. Watson said in a deposition that he used this N.D.A. just for massage appointments because he had lawyers and agents who handled his other business.
It’s unclear whether the Texans knew what number of massages Watson was getting or who was providing them. But their resources helped support his massage habit away from the team. Watson acknowledged in a deposition that the Texans arranged for him to have “a spot” at The Houstonian. He used the fitness club, dined there and likewise arrange massages in hotel rooms.
Not less than seven women met him on the hotel for appointments, in response to interviews and records, including two who filed civil lawsuits and two who complained to police.
The Texans weren’t aware of the massage appointments on the hotel “that I do know of,” Watson said. He also said that his access to the property was not under his name. One woman who gave Watson a massage at The Houstonian said she was told the room was registered to a member of the Texans’ training staff.
A Well-Connected Lawyer
To preserve his popularity, his profession and possibly his freedom, Watson hired Hardin, now 80, a veteran defense lawyer whose clients have included the previous pitcher Roger Clemens, the evangelist Joel Osteen and, within the Enron case, the accounting firm Arthur Andersen.
Hardin has said the ladies who’ve accused Watson of sexual misconduct are lying. He had ample opportunity to make his case to the district attorney’s office. Through a public records request, The Times reviewed the communications between Hardin and the prosecutors in Watson’s criminal cases. These messages revealed extensive communication between the 2 sides and demonstrated, in any case, the worth of a well-paid and well-connected lawyer.
In early 2022, Hardin, a former prosecutor himself, began a daily dialogue with Johna Stallings, the Harris County sex crimes prosecutor handling the Watson investigation. Within the two months before two different Texas grand juries heard the criminal cases against Watson, Stallings and Hardin met at Hardin’s office, spoke over the phone 12 times and exchanged greater than two dozen text messages, in response to public records.
A few of their exchanges were peppered with congenial remarks about cases they were trying. Others were more opaque. Someday, Stallings asked Hardin if he could chat. He said he was in trial, then asked, “Any problems?” They spoke over the phone twice that day.
The quantity of contact between the prosecutor and the defense was noteworthy, said Njeri Mathis Rutledge, a former Harris County prosecutor who’s now a professor at South Texas College of Law Houston.
“There are some well-known defense attorneys like a Rusty Hardin which will have gotten slightly extra real estate by way of time, but even given the proven fact that it was Rusty, that’s still numerous time,” Rutledge said.
The Times also reviewed communications between prosecutors and the lawyers for the ladies suing Watson. There was only one exchange: In March 2021, Tony Buzbee, the plaintiffs’ attorney, alerted the district attorney’s office to the allegations within the civil suits. The district attorney asked if his clients had made reports to the police, and eight of Buzbee’s clients soon did. The prosecutors had some direct contact with these women, somewhat than going through Buzbee.
In a press release, Hardin said it’s “a regular practice” for lawyers to work directly with law enforcement and prosecutors.
The Harris County district attorney’s office didn’t reply to specific questions on their prosecutors’ contacts with Hardin and lawyers for the ladies. In a press release, a spokesman for Kim Ogg, the district attorney, said prosecutors “vigorously examined all of the evidence and spoke at great length with accusers.”
In March 2021, Stallings prepared to present her cases against Watson to the Harris County grand jury. She and Hardin exchanged greater than a dozen calls and messages throughout the week of the hearing. As an alternative of putting his client in front of the grand jury, Hardin created a slide presentation arguing for Watson’s innocence and gave it to Stallings together with other documents he deemed vital.
“We’ll let our submissions to you on our client’s behalf function our presentation to the Grand Jury,” Hardin told her in an email. The grand jury declined to charge Watson, and a Brazoria County panel followed suit.
Amanda Peters, a former Harris County prosecutor who teaches law at South Texas College of Law in Houston, said such submissions, often known as grand jury packets, are usually not the norm for the typical person facing charges. They’re more commonly introduced in high-profile cases wherein the client can afford an elaborate and dear defense.
The N.F.L.’s discipline is probably going the subsequent step. Watson has been shuttling between Cleveland, where he’s training along with his recent team, and Houston, where he met with N.F.L. investigators and is giving depositions within the lawsuits. The civil cases, if not settled, shall be tried after the football season.
Through all of it, Watson has been adamant that he did nothing unsuitable. In a deposition on May 13, he was asked concerning the text message he sent to Ashley Solis, one in all his accusers, immediately after their appointment in March 2020. “Sorry about you feeling uncomfortable,” he wrote to her. Watson acknowledged that Solis was “teary-eyed” at the tip of their session, but testified under oath that he still doesn’t understand why.
“I don’t know,” Watson said. “Like I told you in the beginning of this depo, I’m still attempting to work out why we within the situation we’re in immediately, why I’m talking to you guys, why you guys are interviewing me. I don’t know. Have no idea.”