4

First Accuser of Deshaun Watson Speaks Publicly: "We Were All Deceived"

Tony Buzbee's second press conference regarding Deshaun Watson included the quarterback's first accuser.
Tony Buzbee's second press conference regarding Deshaun Watson included the quarterback's first accuser.
Screenshot
^
Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

When Tony Buzbee notified his Instagram followers late last week that there would be a press conference on Tuesday, he promised to "address important and significant developments" in the Watson case. As it turns out, Buzbee did much more than that. Among a slew of guests at the conference, which included experts and advocacy leaders for victims of sexual assault, Buzbee produced Ashley Solis, the accuser in the very first lawsuit filed against Watson back in the middle of March.

Solis is a licensed massage therapist here in Houston, who was hired to provide a sports massage for Watson at her home back on March 30, 2020, a little over a year ago. Instead, according to her lawsuit, Watson assaulted Solis by allegedly touching her with his penis. In the lawsuit, it says that Watson texted her after the massage to apologize. Also, the lawsuit cites other NFL players reaching out to Solis at the recommendation of "Big D," presumably "Big D" being Deshaun Watson.

Here is that lawsuit, in its entirety:

To ensure disclosure from both sides of the legal battle, here was Watson's response to Solis' lawsuit on Twitter the night that it was announced by Buzbee:

In a five minute statement, Solis, through tears, outlined the emotional pain and torment she has endured as a result of Watson's alleged actions, and made a plea that the Texans quarterback be held accountable for his actions. Among the quotes from Solis were the following:

"I'm here to take back the power and take back control. I’m a survivor of assault and harassment."

"I can no longer practice the profession I love the most without my hands shaking during the session. I got into massage therapy to heal people. To heal their minds and bodies. To bring peace to their souls. Deshaun Watson has robbed me of that."

"We were all deceived into thinking Deshaun Watson was a good guy, and unfortunately we know that good guys can do terrible things."

"People say that I’m doing this just for money. That is false. I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman."

Solis concluded her statement with a plea for Watson to be held accountable, and punctuated things with a succinct declaration: "My name is Ashley Solis, and I'm a survivor."

Other things we learned from the nearly one-hour media session held at Buzbee's downtown office, and streamed live on Facebook and Instagram:

* The lawsuit count against Deshaun Watson is up to 22 civil lawsuits. For the first time, Buzbee disclosed that there were a handful of women, five in all, whose cases he turned away because he felt they were not sustainable.

* Two of Buzbee's clients have filed criminal complaints against Watson, including Solis. Buzbee made it clear that he was not involved in that process with either client.

* For what it's worth, the racial breakdown of Watson's accusers across the 22 lawsuits goes like this — 15 African American, 4 white, and 3 Hispanic.

* Buzbee outlined five different "packets" of information that were made available on paper to those in attendance and would be made available digitally for the public. The first two packets included copies of Instagram messages between Watson and a couple of the plaintiffs.

The one bit of interesting news from the second packet was that Watson borrowed massage tables from the Texans' facility to use in his massages with Jane Doe Number 2, who Watson flew in from Atlanta to administer massage. The third packet was a copy of Watson's boilerplate Non Disclosure Agreement he asks many of the women to sign, either before or after the massage. The fourth packet contains copies of tweets from Watson, dating back to 2012, all mentioning massage in some form. The fifth packet included direct messages from one accuser to colleagues, in which she suggests bringing her accusations to the cops or the Texans, and one respondent telling her that it was futile to do so.

* Finally, Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, an attorney in Buzbee's firm, read a letter from the Jane Doe in Lawsuit Number 6, real name Lauren Baxley, to Watson, taking the quarterback to task for all the things she claims he did in their session back in June of 2020.

The full press conference can be seen here:

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

Update: 4 p.m.

Rusty Hardin's office fired back with a statement of its own in a case that's increasingly being carried out in the press. In it, Hardin stated that:

At a press conference today, attorney Anthony Buzbee introduced the first plaintiff to the media. She identified  herself as Ashley Solis. In her remarks, Ms. Solis stated: “People say that I’m doing this just for money. That is false.”

Mr. Buzbee himself repeatedly claimed that the litigation he filed on behalf of other Jane Does “isn’t about money.” At his initial press conference on March 19 announcing the first wave of lawsuits, Mr. Buzbee stated: “The case ain’t about money. And it’s certainly ain’t about seeking publicity or fame. I personally don’t need it. And these women don’t want it. This case is about female empowerment.”

In fact, according to the documentation below, Mr. Buzbee sought $100,000 in hush money on behalf of Ms. Solis to quietly settle the allegations the month before he filed the first lawsuit.

“My client’s demand is $100,000,” Buzbee associate Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey wrote in a February 9, 2021 email on behalf of Ms. Solis. Ms. Brandfield-Harvey followed up with a clarification of the $100,000 demand later that same day. “This offer remains open until Friday of this week.” Mr. Buzbee is copied on all of the emails.

The Watson representative who engaged in the discussions with Mr. Buzbee and his firm is Scott Gaffield, the General Counsel at the Athletes First agency of Laguna Beach.

On February 19, Mr. Gaffield responded to Mr. Buzbee and Ms. Brandfield-Harvey by inquiring about “the rationale behind the $100k demand” given that “we don’t believe that the alleged facts show that Deshaun did anything wrong…”

Mr. Buzbee responded that same morning: “We made a legit demand. You rejected it. We won’t be making another or bid against ourselves.” He then added: “This is Houston, Texas. Perhaps you should find him a lawyer here so you can apprise both you and your client of the landscape here and who you are dealing with.”

In a written statement, Mr. Gaffield said:

“My email exchanges with Mr. Buzbee and Ms. Brandfield-Harvey were very clear. We did not think that the facts showed that Deshaun did anything wrong with their client. We believed then – and fully believe now – that Deshaun learned a lesson about putting himself in this type of situation by interacting with people he does not know. As the emails show, we were willing to continue discussions on Deshaun’s behalf to explore ways to prevent a lawsuit and a public spectacle. But Mr. Buzbee informed us that he was unwilling to do so. We expect that this matter will be resolved in court.”


Hardin's office follows this up with what they say are the entirety of email communications they say were made between February 3-19 concerning the matter. We are including some of that here (we'll spare you the negotiations on when they can meet to talk).

From: Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey
Sent: Wednesday, February 3, 2021 8:52 AM
To: Scott Gaffield
Cc: Anthony Buzbee
Subject: Deshaun Watson

Hello Mr. Gaffield,

I am writing this email to follow up on our phone conversation from yesterday. We are of the strong position that we need a mediator for any settlement negotiations going forward in this matter. We believe it is in the best interest of all parties to have a mediator in order to protect any discussions.

If you are agreeable, we can circulate a list of names of mediators that we have used in the past and potential dates and times for mediation via Zoom.

If there are mediators that your office would like to propose, we will consider your suggestions.

Please let us know.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey
Associate Attorney
The Buzbee Law Firm

From: Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2021 4:29 PM
To: Scott Gaffield
Cc: Anthony Buzbee
Subject: Re: Deshaun Watson

Hi Scott,

Thank you for touching base.

We have had time to discuss this option amongst ourselves and with our client and we are willing to move forward with settlement negotiations without a mediator.

Therefore, my client’s demand is $100,000.

Please let us know Mr. Watson’s response.

Sincerely,

Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey

From: Scott Gaffield
Date: Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at 7:22 PM
To: Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey
Cc: Anthony Buzbee
Subject: RE: Deshaun Watson

CONFIDENTIAL SETTLEMENT COMMUNICATION

Thanks – received, and will be in touch.

From: Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2021 8:08 PM
To: Scott Gaffield
Cc: Anthony Buzbee
Subject: Re: Deshaun Watson

CONFIDENTIAL SETTLEMENT COMMUNICATION

Scott,

This offer remains open until Friday of this week.

Thanks.

Sincerely,

Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey

From: Scott Gaffield
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2021 10:49 AM
To: Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey
Cc: Anthony Buzbee
Subject: Re: Deshaun Watson

CONFIDENTIAL SETTLEMENT COMMUNICATION

Hi Cornelia & Tony,

Following on my call last week with Cornelia, wanted to check in on this to see if Ms. Solis wanted to either help us understand the rationale behind the $100k demand or come back with a different figure. As I said to Cornelia last week, we don’t believe that the alleged facts show that Deshaun did anything wrong with regards to Ms. Solis, but we are nevertheless happy to continue the conversation around a reasonable settlement figure because we believe he can learn a lesson about having put himself in this situation.

Thanks,

Scott

From: Anthony Buzbee (Tbuzbee@txattorneys.com)
Sent: Friday, February 19, 2021 11:10 AM
To: Scott Gaffield (sgaffield@athletesfirst.net)
Cc: Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey (cbrandfieldharvey@txattorneys.com)
Subject: Re: Deshaun Watson

We made a legit demand. You rejected it. We won’t be making another or bid against ourselves. We also won’t be having an extended dialogue about why you think your client did nothing wrong or how you want this to be a “learning” experience for your “high profile athlete,” as you refer to him. This is Houston, Texas. Perhaps you should find him a lawyer here so you can apprise both you and your client of the landscape here and who you are dealing with. Talk soon.

Tony Buzbee

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.