More than a week after defending his client amid public accusations of sexual assault and misconduct, the attorney of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has filed an official response to 22 civil lawsuits pending against the NFL star. As ESPN's Sarah Bishop reported Monday, Rusty Hardin now claims Watson's legal team has "already uncovered evidence that numerous allegations ... are simply not true or accurate." Hardin also says he and the rest of Watson's team have come to the "resounding" conclusion that all 22 of the quarterback's accusers are lying about his alleged misconduct, with some simply wanting to "get money" from Watson.
One of 23 lawsuits originally filed against Watson was recently dropped by a plaintiff "in light of privacy and security concerns," as Bishop reported. But the rest of them, the first of which was filed back on March 16, are "replete with mischaracterizations" of Watson's character, Hardin said in this week's response to the lawsuits.
"These range from being misleading, to fraudulent, to slanderous," Hardin's filing states, per Bishop. "Importantly, only two of the 22 lawsuits allege that Mr. Watson forced any type of sexual activity -- an allegation Mr. Watson again vehemently denies."
Hardin's comments come less than two weeks after the attorney said Watson did have "some consensual encounters" with accusers, all of which allege misconduct by Watson during private massage therapy sessions, most of them booked via social media. But his newest statement redirects most of the attention to alleged fabrications within accuser testimonies.
After eight of the plaintiffs massaged Watson, Hardin's statement reads, each of them "bragged about, praised, and were excited about massaging Mr. Watson." His response also claims seven plaintiffs "willingly worked or offered to work with Mr. Watson after their alleged incidents," three others "lied about the number of sessions they actually had" with the QB, and five others "told others they wanted to get money out of" Watson.
"It was not until the plaintiffs saw an opportunity for a money grab," Hardin said Monday, per ESPN, "that they changed their stories to convert therapy sessions they bragged about to friends and family to something much more nefarious ... Mr. Watson has been adamant that he did not engage in any improper conduct and we strongly believe him. Therefore, the answer to the question of whether we are saying that all 22 plaintiffs are lying about the allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Watson is a resounding yes."
Plaintiffs attorney Tony Buzbee, meanwhile, has already responded to Hardin's filing by reiterating support for the accusers.
"Watson can't deny he sought out an unusually high number of women for massages on Instagram; he doesn't deny he insisted on being nude or nearly nude; he can't deny the massage sessions occurred; he can't deny he wanted more than a 'massage'; and he hasn't credibly denied that something bad happened during the session -- he instead claims that any sexual acts were consensual," Buzbee said, as ESPN reported. "Of course his definition of 'consent' doesn't comport with that of everyone else. I have faith that the court process will sort out the truth as these matters progress."
Watson remains under investigation by the NFL for the alleged incidents, with league spokespeople calling the allegations "deeply disturbing."