Deshaun Watson facing new lawsuit stemming from 2020 massage

BEREA, Ohio — Another woman has filed a civil lawsuit against Deshaun Watson, alleging the suspended Cleveland Browns quarterback pressured her into oral sex during a massage session in 2020.

It is the 26th known lawsuit filed against Watson, accusing him of inappropriate sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massages.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in Harris County (Texas), Watson is accused of soliciting the plaintiff over Instagram with a direct message for a massage at a Houstonian hotel room in Texas in December 2020, while he was a member of the Texans. The lawsuit states that during the session, Watson “continuously pressured [the plaintiff] into massaging his private area” before he “removed his towel” and “offered to let her ‘get on top.'” According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff “refused to have sex with Watson, however, he was able to pressure her into oral sex” and “Watson paid [the plaintiff] $300 for her services, although her normal charge was $115 for an hour massage.”

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff has “suffered from severe depression and anxiety” since the alleged incident.

“My client’s experience with Deshaun Watson follows a series of disturbingly similar encounters reported by more than 20 women who have filed suit against the NFL superstar,” the woman’s lawyer, Anissah Nguyen, told ESPN. “Like so many others, my client spent almost two years struggling to cope with the shame and trauma from everything that he has stolen from her and the daily pain that has become her reality.

“Knowing her story will bring on the hard conversations, criticism and even victim-blaming, the strength and bravery of these other women gave my client the courage to stand up and speak out. She seeks justice not only for herself and her own healing, but for the more than 20 women who refused to be shamed into silence, and the victims who have yet to come forward.”

Watson settled 23 of the lawsuits against him this past summer, but one remains outstanding, according to the plaintiff’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, who also represented the other women who had sued. One lawsuit was dropped after a judge’s ruling that the plaintiffs needed to amend their petitions to disclose their names. Two other women filed criminal complaints against Watson but did not sue him.

In July, the Texans reached settlements with 30 women who made claims or were prepared to make them against the NFL organization for what Buzbee called its alleged “enabling” of Watson’s behavior. The New York Times reported over the summer that the Texans had arranged for Watson to see massage therapists in a Houstonian hotel room.

Watson is serving an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault on massage therapists, as defined by the NFL. On Aug. 18, the NFL and NFL Players Association reached a settlement on Watson’s suspension. He was also fined $5 million and had to undergo a mandatory treatment program.

Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year. But Sue L. Robinson, an independent arbitrator jointly appointed by the league and players’ union, found that “the NFL carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault.” Robinson also concluded in her report that Watson’s behavior was both “egregious” and “predatory.”

Watson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said that people have not been interested in listening to his side of the story.

“I’ll continue to stand on my innocence, just because, you know, settlements and things like that don’t mean that a person is guilty for anything,” he said Aug. 18, after the settlement agreement. “I feel like a person has an opportunity to stand on his innocence and prove that, and we proved that from a legal side, and just going to continue to push forward as an individual and as a person.”

Watson was allowed to re-enter the Browns training facility this week after being banned since Aug. 30 as part of the settlement. He can’t practice with the team again until Nov. 14. and won’t be eligible to play until Week 13, when the Browns travel to face the Texans in Houston on Dec. 4.

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