HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans had been told that their former quarterback Deshaun Watson was sexually assaulting and harassing women during massage sessions, but instead of trying to stop him, the team provided him with resources to enable his actions and “went blind”. eye” to his behavior, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
The lawsuit against the team was filed in Houston by one of 24 women who previously sued Watson over allegations of sexual misconduct while playing for the Texans. Last week, the women’s lawyer, Tony Buzbee, announced that 20 of the 24 lawsuits had been settled.
Watson, who was later traded to the Cleveland Browns, denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name. Watson faces NFL discipline over the allegations. He is due to have a hearing this week with NFL Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson to decide whether the 26-year-old violated the league’s personal conduct policy. Robinson is expected to reign supreme before the Browns open training camp late next month.
In their lawsuits, the women accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will during massage appointments. A woman alleged that Watson forced her to perform oral sex.
The lawsuit against the Texans accuses the team and some of its employees of knowing or knowing about Watson’s troubling behavior. Joni Honn, owner of a massage business under contract with the Texans, told police investigators that her therapists were aware of Watson’s “known tendency to push boundaries during massage sessions,” according to the lawsuit. .
Honn told Texans, including the team’s head coach, that Watson contacted random women on Instagram for massages in early 2020, according to the lawsuit.
Magen Weisheit, another massage therapist who worked with the Texans, told Houston police investigators that she and others were well aware of Watson’s conduct during the massage sessions. When Weisheit learned of the allegations made against Watson by a woman who brought the first legal action against him, she wrote in a text to the woman’s former colleague that she could contact the player’s staff member. team, but “they don’t do much about the situation though,” according to the lawsuit.
“Despite being genuinely aware of what can only be described as troubling behavior, the Houston Texans have turned a blind eye. Worse still, the Houston Texans organization allowed Watson’s egregious behavior. The Texans also protected and protected Watson — for Watson’s own protection and the protection of the organization itself,” according to the lawsuit.
The woman’s lawsuit alleges that the Texans provided Watson with various resources, including rooms in a Houston hotel, massage tables and a nondisclosure agreement that the women were asked to sign, which allowed the quarterback “to compound his misconduct with women by turning massage sessions into something sexual.
The Texans are also accused of having their security chief remove from the internet a November 2020 Instagram video in which a woman detailed alleged misconduct by Watson during massage sessions with her.
In a statement, the Houston Texans did not specifically address the various allegations made against the team.
“We are aware of the complaint filed against us today. Since March 2021, we have fully supported and respected law enforcement and various investigations. We will continue to take the necessary steps to respond to the allegations against our organization,” the Texans said.
Buzbee said the lawsuit against the Texans was the first in a long series he planned to file against the team.
Suffice it to say, the overwhelming evidence gathered that the Houston Texans enabled Watson’s behavior is incredibly overwhelming. We believe the Texans knew or most certainly should have known of Watson’s conduct,” Buzbee said in a statement.
The NFL declined to comment on the lawsuit against the Texans.
“I’ve never assaulted anyone,” Watson said June 14 in his first public comments since being introduced by the Browns in March. “I never harassed anyone or disrespected anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything.
In March, two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict him on criminal complaints stemming from the allegations.
Houston Police Detective Kamesha Baker, the criminal investigation’s lead investigator, told Buzbee in a deposition that she believes Watson committed crimes in the 10 criminal complaints that were filed against the quarterback. -back. Baker also said Watson’s conduct during the massage sessions escalated in such a way that she believed he would commit even greater crimes, according to the lawsuit.
After grand juries declined to indict, multiple teams sued Watson, who agreed to be traded to the Browns. Cleveland signed the three-time Pro Bowler to a five-year, $230 million deal in March.
The four lawsuits still pending against Watson could still go to trial, but that would not happen until 2023 at the earliest.
AP Pro Football writer Rob Maaddi in Tampa, Fla. and AP Sports writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.
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