What to know about the lawsuits against Deshaun Watson

Houston Texans full-back Deshaun Watson is the subject of seven civil cases filed in mid-March that accuse him of sexual assault. He was not criminally charged. Here are the issues:

Deshaun Watson, 25, is a star quarterback for the Houston Texans, one of the best in the NFL in his position.

In September 2020, he signed a four-year contract extension almost $ 111 million guaranteed, which tied him to the Texans until 2025. But Watson, disillusioned by the team’s weak staff movements and the failure to promise to include him in the search for a new coach and general manager, could not trade. Watson has a no-trade clause so he can choose his next destination. But the Texans stressed in January that they did not intend to trade him, which would create an impasse for more than two months.

Over the past year, Watson has grown into a leading voice among black players protesting against racial injustice and police brutality. During the 2020 offseason, he participated in a video led by the player urging the league to support protests by players, and after the Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, Watson and his family – Floyd grew up in Houston – moved to a downtown area. argument.

Seven women have accused Watson of assault in civil lawsuits filed in Harris County, Texas. The lawyer representing them, Tony Buzbee, said as many as 15 other women had confirmed the allegations of sexual misconduct and coercion against Watson.

Although the seven charges filed so far have many similarities, only one – in which Watson allegedly put a woman under pressure to perform oral sex during a massage – is a claim of sexual assault. in a sexual way. All of the charges accuse Watson of a pattern of lewd behavior in incidents that took place from March to December 2020: exposing himself to women he hired for massages; the women recommend massaging sensitive areas such as the groin and inner leg; and his body moves in ways that forced them to touch his penis.

Meredith J. Duncan, who teaches criminal law and criminal justice at the University of Houston Law Center, defined civil assaults as intentional or willful and knowingly to touch someone in a way that a reasonable person would consider offensive.

“It just so happens in this case, the civil assault involves his genitals,” Duncan said. “But forcing another person to commit a sexual act is a more serious form of sexual assault.”

Watson has not commented publicly since the night of March 16, when the first charge was filed. He said on Twitter that he had “never treated a woman with anything but the utmost respect” and that he had rejected an unfounded six-figure settlement requirement from Buzbee before the first lawsuit was filed.

Rusty Hardin, who represents Watson, issued a statement on March 19 calling the allegations against his client “ruthless”. That same day, Watson’s agent, David Mulugheta, publicly defended his client in social media posts.

The Houston Police Department said in a statement On March 19, it was “unaware of any contact between HPD and Tony Buzbee, the Houston attorney, regarding the allegations in his recent lawsuits, and no incident reports on these allegations have been filed in our jurisdiction.”

The league opened an investigation into Watson’s behavior on March 18. In a letter to Buzbee, Lisa Friel, a special council investigator at the league, requested the co – operation of the accused. A league spokesman said the matter was being investigated in connection with the NFL’s policy on personal conduct. This policy determines off-field behavior in which players and coaches are involved.

The Texans said in a statement the same day that they “will continue to take this and all matters concerning anyone within the Houston Texans organization seriously” and that the team will not comment further until the league’s investigation is completed. , a process without a public timeline. .

Tony Buzbee is a Houston lawyer who has been working on personal injury cases for years, but perhaps the most famous for his involvement in mass abuse and group actions, including the Hurricane Ike lawsuit and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill a decade ago. He does not appear to have represented many women in sexual assault cases.

A former Marine, Buzbee, shows off his exaggerated personality and wealth on social media. The first two words on Buzbee’s law firm are ‘Just Win’ and he wears a shark tattoo on his right arm.

Although he said he did not support the Texans, Buzbee, a Texas A&M graduate, supported in 2014 put up 10 billboards an appeal to Mr Bob McNair, who is now deceased, to draft Johnny Manziel, an Aggies full-back; McNair did not take his advice. Buzbee lives in the same Houston street as Cal McNair, chairman of the Texans, but said at a news conference that he does not know McNair. Buzbee also unsuccessful presented by the Mayor of Houston in 2019.

Rusty Hardin, a former state prosecutor who has become a defense attorney, has represented several prominent clients, from star athletes to accountants Arthur Andersen in the Enron scandal. He also worked in the Office of the Independent Advocate during the Clinton administration in the Whitewater investigation.

Among the athletes he has defended are the pitcher Roger Clemens, against charges of perjury in 2012; the NFL runs back Adrian Peterson, who was accused of criminal child abuse in 2014; and NBA star James Harden, who in 2017 is accused of paying four people to attack and rob Moses Malone, Jr., the son of the Hall of Fame NBA player.

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