CLEVELAND, Ohio — Deshaun Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, is seeking sanctions from the attorney general for the 26th plaintiff accusing Watson of sexual misconduct during a massage date because “it’s a bogus lawsuit.”
In a telephone interview Tuesday night with cleveland.comHardin says text messages from the accuser to Watson — more than 35 that were sent in the year after the alleged incident in December 2020 but were never returned by him, according to the filings — show she was not forced to perform oral sex. , which she claims in her suit.
Hardin says the plaintiff’s attorney, Anissah Nguyen, had possession of the text messages when she filed the lawsuit on Oct. 13. Cleveland.com sent an email and text message to Nguyen seeking comment.
“It is nothing but blackmail and we will not tolerate it,” Hardin said. “The days of settling lawsuits we don’t believe in are over.”
Some of the text messages, screenshots of which are in the files, show the accuser asking Watson to meet her at the Houstonian hotel, where the alleged incident occurred during their only massage date. Some of the requests to see him again happened just days after the alleged assault.
Other text messages from her appear to be sexually explicit about things she might do to him or vice versa.
“That obviously doesn’t sound like a person who was pressured to perform oral sex,” Hardin said.
Hardin partner Leah Graham, who also represents Watson, joined the call with cleveland.com and said the company had been silent for quite some time about the nature of some of the cases.
“I think the days of biting our tongue and trying to be politically correct and trying to be a little careful about what the evidence shows and what the facts reveal — the days of doing that are over,” Graham said. “The truth will set us free.”
Hardin emphasized that any lawyer who tries to pull the same stunt in the future will have to answer for it in court. He said Watson settled 23 of the original 24 suits — one is pending — so he could get back on the field. All of those plaintiffs were represented by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who recounted cleveland.com he rejected five others. Nguyen told Cleveland.com earlier this month that her client had spoken with Buzbee about representation.
Watson is currently serving his 11-game suspension from the NFL under the personal conduct policy, but is on his way to play Dec. 4 in Houston, where most of the alleged incidents occurred. He returned to the Browns facility on a limited basis on October 10th, and can begin practicing with the team on November 14th.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the fall league meeting last week that Watson has complied with all the terms of his suspension to this point, including treatment for what the NFL determined was sexual assault, and that he should have been reinstated for the final six. games
“He’s back (with the Browns) and as far as we’re concerned, it’s over,” Hardin said. “We settled a bunch of lawsuits that we had no responsibility for — that we don’t believe had merit — but we settled them to pretty much wrap it all up so he could start playing football.”
He said Watson also had to “settle the matter with the NFL. Both of those are done now. And now, anyone who wants to file one of these lawsuits does so at their own risk, because there is no such thing, and we will fight tooth and nail against each of them.”
Watson, who also had to pay $5 million as part of his NFL settlement, has maintained his innocence since the allegations first surfaced in 2020.
Hardin said Nguyen “allowed it to sound like this could be a new trial. She never told anyone that this woman was interviewed by the police in April of 2021. It’s irresponsible for a lawyer to take that case. She has an ethical responsibility to investigate a case and make sure she felt there was a legitimate basis to bring it. Clearly she didn’t because her client was dismissed by everyone who looked at it for over a year.”
He noted that the plaintiff was not only rejected by police, but by the Grand Jury in Harris County Texas, and by the NFL when compiling its list of credible cases.
“It’s an outrageous lawsuit designed to get a quick settlement, and those days are over,” Hardin said. “That ship has sailed.”
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