The names of 14 massage therapists who accused Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual assault will be made public, after two judges ordered attorney Tony Buzbee to refile many of the anonymous lawsuits on Friday.
Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin filed the motions to have the names of the Jane Doe defendents revealed. At a Friday afternoon hearing, attorney Tony Buzbee — who represents the 22 women — confirmed that nine women in total have agreed to come forward.
In addition to the nine women, Judge Rabeea Collier ordered the names of three additional accusers to be made public. Earlier in the day, Judge Dedra Davis ordered the disclosure of one additional woman. A third hearing set for 4 p.m. CT was canceled when Buzbee agreed to refile another woman’s suit under her own name.
Hardin said that his client engaged in consensual sexual activity with all of the women.
“Never at any time, under any circumstances,” Hardin said, “did this young man ever engage in anything that was not mutually desired by the other party.”
Friday’s proceedings played out in three separate hearings. At 11 a.m. in Collier’s courtroom, Hardin accused Buzbee of using the anonymity of the 22 accusers to his advantage, something he said was “legally” and “morally wrong.”
“He used that anonymity as a way to get his side out, leaving us powerless to answer,” Hardin said at an afternoon hearing.
All 22 cases will be consolidated in Collier’s court for pretrial discovery and depositions, before heading back to their respective courts if a trial takes place.
The quarterback’s attorney read off a list of attacks on social media, in which the NFL star was called a “rapist walking the streets,” and a “disgrace to the NFL.”
“Put Deshaun Watson’s creepy ass in the clinker and lose the key,” read one post. Watson’s mother allegedly received a message: “Fine rapist son you’ve got there.”
“This is horrible stuff on both sides,” Hardin said. “But for two weeks this man has been attacked like that by these carefully orchestrated, leaked allegations”
At Friday’s press conference, Hardin urged the public to stop harassing the women, while stressing that his client should also get the benfit of the doubt.
“All I’m asking here is, that we give this man the same benefit that the woman should get,” Hardin said. “The woman should get the benefit or the belief she may be telling the truth. The man should get the benefit also, of being not guilty of it until we have some proof.”
The Houston Police Department has confirmed that Watson is under criminal investigation, but has thus far declined to provide details.
Buzbee said the level of harassment levvied against his clients goes beyond just name-calling.
“There’s a big difference between calling people names,” Buzbee said, “and saying that someone should be dead, be put in a ditch, those kinds of things.”
Two of the 22 massage therapists accusing Watson came forward on Tuesday. One woman, Ashley Solis, appeared in person to name Watson as her abuser during a March 2020 session. She has gone to police with her allegations.
A second woman, Lauren Baxley, did not appear in person but wrote a letter identifying herself by name.
Buzbee said the nine additional woman who agreed to come forward felt “emboldened” by the first two women.
“They are ready to be identified,” Buzbee wrote in a statement after the 11 a.m. hearing. “In lawsuits sometimes we push hard for something that may turn out to not be helpful. As I said in Court, ‘be careful what you ask for.’ Identifying these women at this point adds even more credibility to the allegations being made, and I am proud to stand with these brave and courageous women.”