Deshaun Watson’s assault prosecution followed blackmail attempt

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Deshaun Watson's assault prosecution followed blackmail attempt


HOUSTON – A lawyer for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, accused of sexual assault and harassment in lawsuits brought by 16 women, questioned the allegations against the NFL player on Tuesday, saying they had been made following an unsuccessful attempt to blackmail his client for $ 30,000.
The women, in lawsuits in Houston state court, accuse Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis, or kissing them against their will while being massaged. All of the women who sued Watson are licensed massage therapists or have worked in a spa or similar business.

Rusty Hardin, Watson’s attorney, said in a statement that his legal team has “strong evidence” that a charge brought by a woman who they say filed one of the lawsuits is false.

In her lawsuit, the woman alleged that Watson forced her to perform fellatio during a massage in December and that she “passed out for a few minutes from fear” of meeting Watson, this which left her “terrified”.

Hardin alleges that in January, the woman demanded $ 30,000 in return for her “indefinite silence” for a consensual meeting she had with Watson.

Hardin provided an affidavit under oath from Bryan Burney, Watson’s chief marketing officer, who alleged he spoke with the woman, who told him she should be paid for his “silence.”

In his affidavit, Burney alleges that he also spoke with the woman’s “business manager” and told her that the request for the money “was extortion.”

“He replied, ‘This is not extortion, this is blackmail,’ said Burney.

Hardin said the attempt to blackmail Watson “also calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases. ”

Tony Buzbee, who represents the 16 women, did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment on Tuesday.

“The alleged sexual misconduct is serious. Trying to criminalize or minimize those who speak out or come forward is a mistake, ”Buzbee said in a statement posted Tuesday afternoon on his Facebook page.

At a press conference last week, Buzbee said the lawsuits were not about the money, as the women were suing for damages of $ 500, the least one can ask before. a Texas Civil District Court.

Buzbee said last week that the cases were about “the empowerment of women” and that the women sued “for one reason only, preventing further misconduct on the part of this defendant and anyone like him.”

Hardin accused Buzbee of creating a “circus atmosphere by using social media” to publicize the lawsuits. He said Watson acknowledges that “sexual assault and harassment is not only illegal, but morally wrong”.

Hardin said many massage therapists who have worked with Watson in the past describe him as a “gentleman and model client who has never engaged in improper conduct.”

The two most recent lawsuits in the case were filed on Tuesday. Seven more were dropped off on Monday while the rest were dropped off last week. The lawsuits allege that most of the assaults took place in Houston, with one in Atlanta and the other in Beverly Hills, California. The first alleged assault took place in March 2020.

Buzbee said he plans to submit the evidence of several of the women to authorities, but it is not known if this happened.

Houston Police and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the allegations.

The NFL said it is investigating the allegations against Watson.

Watson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and led the NFL in passing yards last season. He signed a four-year, $ 156 million contract extension with the Texans last offseason, but grew unhappy with the team’s direction as Houston fell to 4-12. Watson requested a trade in January.

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