Sean Pendergast

Are Deshaun Watson's 22 Accusers Lying? Rusty Hardin Says "Resounding Yes"

Rusty Hardin fired back at Deshaun Watson's accusers, in a filing and in a published statement.
Rusty Hardin fired back at Deshaun Watson's accusers, in a filing and in a published statement. Screen grab from YouTube
Since the first lawsuit was filed by Tony Buzbee against Deshaun Watson back on March 16, 2021, this past Saturday and Sunday we had our first quiet weekend during this whole saga, with no new lawsuits, no new social media salvos, no new anything. A quick scouring of Instagram perhaps shows why. Both Buzbee and Deshaun Watson were quite busy decompressing.

Buzbee had a photo shoot for his dog, Lucy, at his "River Oaks house" ....

(NOTE: Someday, when I grow up, I hope to not only have a house in River Oaks, but enough houses to where I need to make the distinction that it's my "River Oaks house.")

Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson was evidently on vacation at an undisclosed location with his girlfriend, Jilly Anais, as seen on her Instagram account. If you're wondering how exactly she might feel about the ongoing scrutiny from of her boyfriend, just scroll to the last picture in the sequence below. That should tell the whole story:


Once Monday morning rolled around, the silence surrounding these 22 civil cases did not last long, as Watson's attorney Rusty Hardin filed a response to the 22 plaintiffs alleging various degrees of sexual misconduct by Watson behind closed doors in massage settings. Here is the PDF of that document, with some summary observations below:
OK, let's break this down. Here we go:

Hardin quantifies the number of plaintiffs with whom the defense has issues
To summarize, here is what Hardin's "issues" scorecard looks like when it comes to the claims of the 22 plaintiffs suing Watson:

After the massage therapy sessions with Mr. Watson, 8 plaintiffs bragged about, praised, and were excited about massaging Mr. Watson;

7 plaintiffs willingly worked or offered to work with Mr. Watson after their alleged incidents;
3 plaintiffs lied about the number of sessions they actually had with Mr. Watson;
3 plaintiffs lied about their alleged trauma and resulting harm;
5 plaintiffs told others they wanted to get money out of Mr. Watson; and
5 plaintiffs have scrubbed or entirely deleted their social media accounts.
I would say, of the assertions made by Hardin above, on the surface, the most daring ones for Buzbee would be the seven plaintiffs who worked or offered to work with Deshaun Watson after the alleged incidents. That's the one category of plaintiff that simply doesn't align with common sense, and can't just be explained away.

Hardin wastes no time debunking Buzbee's star witness
A couple weeks ago, Buzbee had the very first plaintiff, Ashley Solis, give an emotional five-minute statement about the trauma she has suffered since her session with Watson. It was a stark visual, giving a face to the accusations against Watson, that was so strong that just a few days later, two of Watson's biggest sponsors, Nike and Apple, suspended and severed their ties with Watson, respectively. Well, Hardin, wasted no time poking holes in Solis' claims and positioning it as the gateway for the onslaught against Watson:

"For example, in the first lawsuit filed, Plaintiff Ashley Solis implies that Mr. Watson’s question—asking if she “was comfortable with certain areas [his] organization is making him get worked on”—was somehow sexually suggestive. That same question, however, posed to a therapist not seeking to exploit Mr. Watson, was perceived as it was intended: a legitimate therapeutic inquiry. Ms. Solis’s skewed perception of Mr. Watson’s legitimate and innocent query became a prototype for the assembly line of similar allegations in subsequent lawsuits."
The detail of the plaintiffs wanting to work with Watson again, if true, is pretty powerful
Hardin has paragraphs and paragraphs worth of assertions that numerous plaintiffs not only wanted to work with Watson again, but were quite exhilarated by the opportunity to work with him at all. One named Kaylan Hurrington even allegedly wanted to date him. One thing that is quite evident — you can see why Hardin wanted the names of the various plaintiffs so badly. His team has clearly gone to work, getting intel on everything from conversations with family members to observations by security guards. The amount that Hardin's team has been able to ascertain after getting these names, in such a short period of time, is fairly remarkable.

There are parts of this reply that Buzbee should look forward to arguing against
The part of the response that seems to be the easiest for Buzbee to reply to would be Section D, where Hardin asserts that victims are lying about "their alleged trauma and resulting harm." There are three victims' accounts outlined in this section. He claims Ashley Solis' continuing to work shows her contention that "she can no longer practice the profession she loves without shaking" means she was lying. What Hardin calls lying, my guess is Buzbee would call Solis' strong constitution showing she can power through trauma. For the other two women falling into this category, Hardin uses the presence of family or security in the same building where the massage took place as proof they should have felt safe. This feels like a contention Buzbee can, at the very least, show as doubtful in court, if it came to that.

Watson demands a jury trial, so what happens now?
Both attorneys remain steadfast that they want to see justice served in a  court of law, but most legal experts seem to think this is headed to a settlement of some sort, if for no other reason than that's the scenario that puts this behind Watson as soon as possible. It could very well be that Hardin and his team did all of this recon work to just mitigate the settlement damage for Watson rather than prove his complete and total innocence. We will know more as this plays out over the next several days. For the Texans, the big question is "Was this filing a big enough development for a couple teams to make competitive offers for Watson's services in a trade prior to next Thursday's draft?"

Following Monday's filing, Hardin issued the following statement summarizing the legal activities of the day and what they all mean:

"Today we answered the lawsuits filed against our client Deshaun Watson. 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.

We and Mr. Watson take allegations of sexual misconduct against women very seriously, as we all should. We have waited to respond to the numerous allegations made by Mr. Buzbee and his clients until we could responsibly investigate. In the few days since his accusers’ names have been revealed, as was required by Texas law, we are discovering an avalanche of false accusations.

Only two of these 22 lawsuits allege forced sexual activity, which Mr. Watson vehemently denies. In the case of Sheneé Lawson, her business manager acknowledged to Mr. Watson’s marketing manager that the contact was consensual, but she still wanted money. And in the case of Marchelle Davis, witnesses state that Ms. Davis was happy and excited after she massaged Mr. Watson. She lied about being alone at the spa with him. She knew there was a security guard present at all times when Mr. Watson was there. In addition, she told witnesses that if Mr. Watson had paid her off, she would have supported him instead of suing him.

I hope everyone will take a fair and measured look at these accusations as we go forward in these cases. We certainly welcome anyone with relevant information to contact us. We do not expect to make any other comment today. The next hearing in this case is scheduled for Thursday afternoon."
For his part, Buzbee issued the following volley on Monday afternoon:
The schedule now shifts to Thursday afternoon, stay tuned.

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.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast