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Deshaun Watson faces 24th lawsuit accusing him of sexual misconduct

Two more lawsuits were filed against Deshaun Watson in the past week. (David Richard/AP)
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Deshaun Watson was sued by another woman who, like 23 others who have filed suit against him over the past 15 months, accused the Cleveland Browns quarterback of sexual misconduct during a massage session.

The latest lawsuit against Watson was filed Monday in Harris County (Tex.) District Court. The plaintiff, a woman who says she owned and operated her own massage therapy business in Houston, accused Watson of sexually assaulting her during a massage session in August 2020 that her lawsuit called a continuation of “disgusting and abhorrent conduct” by Watson.

According to the complaint, the woman had two sessions with Watson at her home. The first was described as “professional.” He paid $100, asked her to “just keep this between us,” then left abruptly after receiving a phone call, according to the lawsuit.

But she alleges the second session, held five days later, had a different tenor. The suit claims Watson “became aggressive” in demanding she massage his inner thighs and that, at some point, Watson got an erection, began masturbating and then ejaculated, with some of his ejaculate landing on her face and chest. According to the lawsuit, Watson paid the plaintiff $150.

The woman, according to the complaint, was so traumatized by the situation that she quit massage therapy shortly thereafter. She allegedly has suffered depression and anxiety and has experienced difficulty sleeping as a result of the encounter. The lawsuit says she has “considered” seeking counseling.

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The lawsuit includes a summation of patterns in the 24 civil cases against Watson, noting alleged trends in which he would supposedly seek out massage therapists on Instagram. It cites the repeated allegations of Watson bringing a small towel or insisting one be used instead of a typical draping; how he often would drive significant distances for the sessions; how he would demand no one else be present and often request the focus of the sessions to be on his groin or buttocks areas; and how his behavior often would become more aggressive before escalating to alleged sexual harassment or assault.

The latest suit also cites last week’s comments by Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, in which he said during a radio interview that a “happy ending” is “not a crime.”

“I don’t know how many men are out there now that have had a massage that, perhaps, occasionally there was a happy ending, all right?” Hardin said Friday on SportsRadio 610 in Houston. “Maybe there’s nobody in your listening audience that that ever happened to. I do want to point out, if it has happened, it’s not a crime, okay? Unless you are paying somebody extra or so to give you some type of sexual activity, it’s not a crime. … Doing something or saying something or being a way that makes you uncomfortable is not a crime. And so, we’ve had two grand juries find that, and nobody seems to want to listen.”

Hardin issued a statement later that evening contending he was using the term “hypothetically” and that Watson “did not pay anyone for sex.”

“I have reiterated to others it’s not [okay] to do anything that a woman does not agree to do,” Hardin said in the statement, while saying again that Watson has acknowledged “consensual sexual activity” with three of the women who have sued him. “These women have alleged assault in their pleadings. I was speaking in a hypothetical situation. If there is a consensual sexual encounter after a massage, that is not a crime nor the basis for a lawsuit. I was not talking about what Deshaun did or did not do or expected or did not expect.”

The complaint filed Monday contends the “public comments made by Watson’s defense team evidence a belief system that explains Watson’s conduct: [W]hen Watson contacts a random massage therapist on Instagram for a massage, unbeknownst to the therapist, Watson is wanting more than a massage — his ’thing’ is using his celebrity to make a massage session into something more.”

Hardin and his team responded with a statement Monday evening, saying they are unable to reply because “our legal team has not had time to investigate this new filing and had not heard her name until today.” They added that Watson “continues to deny he did anything inappropriate with any of the plaintiffs.”

The plaintiff, like the other accusers, is represented by attorney Tony Buzbee.

The NFL declined to comment on the latest lawsuit, saying through a spokesman that “the matter remains under review.” The Browns did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In March, before the filing of the latest two lawsuits, two grand juries in Texas declined to charge Watson with a crime.

The NFL has been conducting its own investigation and has interviewed Watson, who could face discipline under the league’s personal conduct policy. Former federal judge Sue Robinson, an independent disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the NFL and its players union, will rule on whether Watson was in violation. Either side can appeal the ruling to Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Late last month, Goodell said the league’s investigation was nearly complete, although it’s unclear whether the latest lawsuits will affect the timing.

The Browns acquired Watson this offseason in a trade with the Houston Texans and signed him to a new five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million. Watson did not play last season, being placed on the Texans’ game-day inactive list each week.

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