HOUSTON, Texas (WJW) – While Deshaun Watson spent last Friday working out with his new football team in Cleveland, his legal team was huddled around a table in a law office in downtown Houston, Texas, going over hundreds of pages of depositions and answering questions from NFL investigators.
Less than half a mile away from that law office, another attorney who represents 22 women alleging sexual misconduct by Watson was preparing to depose the star quarterback again.
“I am going to win these cases,” said attorney Tony Buzbee. “He’s gonna lose over and over and over.”
Attorney Rusty Hardin, who represents Watson, disagrees.
“They’ll be won or lost by the facts,” Hardin said. “The facts are Deshaun didn’t do anything wrong.”
New Cleveland Browns quarterback Watson is facing 22 civil lawsuits. Two grand juries reviewed the criminal complaints ten of the 22 women filed and chose not to indict him on any charges.
He could still face discipline from the NFL. League officials confirmed they are continuing to investigate the cases to determine if Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy.
The I-Team flew to Houston to interview the lead lawyers on the case and visit some of the other law enforcement agencies involved.
“When people say the NFL investigation is ongoing, that’s a farce,” Buzbee said.
He noted investigators did talk to some of his clients. “The NFL gives two **** about women or about women’s rights or about women that have been assaulted. They don’t.”
Watson’s legal team said Buzbee’s opinion is not accurate, and the NFL is still investigating.
“That’s incredibly unfair, and it’s wrong,” Hardin said. “Flat out wrong.”
Hardin said the league has asked for more information just in recent days.
“Very, very aggressively investigating it,” Hardin said. “Nowhere near complete. They’re going to move as fast as they can. They’ve informed us they haven’t even had a chance to interview Deshaun. They want to wait to do that until they’ve got everything.”
At a recent news conference, Watson said he never disrespected any women, and he doesn’t plan to settle the cases.
We learned the two sides did try to settle the cases twice.
The first attempt was last April, a few weeks after the cases were filed. An offer was made to settle all the cases for $990,000 or about $45,000 per woman. We are told the deal didn’t go through because the attorney for the women wanted a non-disclosure agreement signed so no one would know the amount of the settlement.
In October, the Miami Dolphins were interested in trading for Watson, and he wanted to go there. The Dolphins wanted all the lawsuits settled.
“They offered a $100,000. We told ’em no, we’re not taking a $100,000 per person,” Buzbee said. “Deshaun Watson wanted a full, not only non-disclosure about the settlement, but you can’t say anything bad about us. You can’t say what happened to you. You can’t say anything.”
Hardin said he was stunned Buzbee would talk about the settlements. He said he normally would not discuss them but felt he had to set the record straight.
“The thing that it broke down on was we wanted it done so the public would be able to make their own judgment,” Hardin said. “Buzbee insisted there would have to be a non-disclosure agreement so the public wouldn’t know how little the cases were settling for. All of us want to get this behind us. “
Watson’s team promises to expose cracks in the claims against the QB.
“When you look at 22 lawsuits, it appears that it is massive,” said Letitia Quinones, who is working with Hardin on Watson’s case. “When you look at each individual lawsuit, you will see it lacks actual merit. Take each story and the lack of consistency and inconsistency in each one of those stories, and you will get to the truth very quickly. And, that is that, Deshaun did not do anything that these women allege he did.”
On Thursday, Watson’s legal team filed a motion in Harris County District Court seeking to get the complete medical records of the women.
“Even though every single one of Mr. Buzbee’s clients alleges, ‘Plaintiff has suffered mental anguish as a result of Watson’s behavior’ only four plaintiffs have produced some medical records,” the filing stated.
The filing also stated the licensed counselor of one of the women said in a deposition she was surprised the woman responded to Watson 19 times after the day of the massage and offered to work with him again. The counselor said the woman never told her she continued to respond to Watson.
“I mean, I was really surprised that she responding at all,” the counselor stated in the deposition. “I mean, I would think that it’s not consistent. Most people would not want to, I would think that most clients that had actually been traumatized and sexually assaulted would not want to have anything to do with their perpetrator.”
When we asked Buzbee about some of the women responding to Watson to willing to meet with him again, this is what he said: “That’s common behavior for somebody who’s been assaulted… Psychologists will tell you that is normal behavior normalizing what happened.”
But according to the newest filing, Buzbee’s own expert, the counselor for the one accuser, said she thinks, “Most clients that had actually been traumatized and sexually assaulted would not want to have anything to do with their perpetrator.”
Another court filing showed one of the accuser’s demanding $30,000 from Watson. Buzbee denied she was trying to shake down Watson and extort money.
“Just like I sent a letter before all this started to try to settle it without all this foolishness and they didn’t do it,” Buzbee said. “You call that extortion? Trying to settle a case before the trial? Call it what you want.”
Watson’s team also said that the same accuser sent several text messages to Watson, one right after the massage where she alleges sexual misconduct.
“Hi Deshaun! Just wanted to say thank you for trusting me with your massage today. I’ll be here til Jan 3rd if you’d like to get another one.“ She then sent another message, in part, saying she wanted to apologize for her behavior and she, “Devalued her integrity and profession.” She also said she feels, “Really horrible as a person.”
Watson responded he didn’t know what she meant.
Buzbee said his clients are strong, credible women. He said some have been harassed and received death threats after they filed the lawsuits.
Additional court hearings are now scheduled for next week to go over motions filed by both sides. It’s not known when the cases will be resolved.
On Thursday, we also reached out to the NFL to ask about the status of the league investigation. The league sent an email saying only, “The matter remains under review.”
“They think that maybe Deshaun Watson throws 5 touchdowns and nobody thinks about it anymore,” Buzbee said. “But, I’m gonna think about it.”
Browns officials declined to discuss the matter with us. Hardin said the Browns did extensive interviews and research before signing Watson.
“Deshaun Watson did not do what they are alleging, I can tell you that,” Hardin said.