HOUSTON — On a day when Deshaun Watson’s defense team scored a handful of court victories that will force some identities of civil lawsuit accusers into the public domain, his lead attorney Rusty Hardin claimed that some of the massages with the quarterback’s accusers led to consensual sexual encounters.
Hardin said that as the cases unfold, there would be “no question” that sexual acts occurred between Watson and some of the women. Hardin also reiterated multiple times that Watson was seeking out massage therapists for legitimate treatment “two to three times a week” and that anything else of a physical nature occurring was not forced or coerced.
“We’ve never run from it,” Hardin said during a wide-ranging news conference Friday. “Our first [statement] has always been about consent — that on some occasions some active sexual activity would have taken place. … I’m not going to go into what it is or the nature [of the physical contact] or the numbers or with whom. But I think you can rightfully assume that.
"The question always that we have always been emphasizing is never at any time, under any circumstances did this young man engage in anything that was not mutually desired by the other party.”
Hardin was particularly direct about Watson’s reaction when the attorney told him that the third Jane Doe filing accused Watson of forcing the woman to perform oral sex during the massage session.
“When I told him, he was in disbelief,” Hardin said. “He asked me two or three times, ‘I forced her?’ And then he just started crying.”
Hardin and others in his firm defended Watson’s character and repeatedly proclaimed his innocence. They also chiseled away at the headline-grabbing methods of opposing attorney Tony Buzbee, who systematically filed the civil cases of his 22 accusers on a semi-daily basis since March 16 — while also holding a pair of news conferences and utilizing Instagram to make statements. Buzbee’s most recent news conference Tuesday revealed the identities of two of Watson’s accusers, who made statements about their alleged interactions with the quarterback and how their massage sessions were sexualized without their consent.
Hardin blasted those tactics, accusing Buzbee of “a new model for extortion” by concealing the identities of Watson’s accusers and then going on a weeks-long blitz to capture media attention and try the quarterback in the court of public opinion before the legal defense had a confirmed list of the accusers' names.
In an Instagram post Friday night, Buzbee said Watson's interactions with his clients weren't consensual.
On the heels of that news conference, Hardin filed a motion for a series of emergency hearings Friday, asking judges to rule that accusers making allegations against Watson about conduct that claimed to have happened in Texas should follow state law and dictate that the Jane Doe plaintiffs reveal their names. Hardin won a series of rulings in the hearings, resulting in at least 13 of the Jane Doe plaintiffs having to refile their lawsuits with their legal names attached. It is expected that given those rulings, all 22 Jane Does will eventually have to refile their suits with their names attached.
Buzbee said Friday that at least 10 had already made the decision to move forward with litigation with their identities revealed.
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