Editor’s note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
A 23rd plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson on Tuesday. This filing includes new claims about how Watson and his team attempted to settle the cases ahead of the filings last year. All of the 23 active cases regard sexual misconduct.
The civil lawsuits were filed by massage therapists, each detailing graphic accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault that occurred during massage therapy sessions. The accounts range from Watson allegedly refusing to cover his genitals to the quarterback “touching [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.”
The 23rd plaintiff, Nia Smith, allegedly had three different encounters with Watson in 2020: on June 7, Aug. 24 and “in late August or early September.” The filing detailed how the quarterback’s “behavior grew worse during every massage.”
The lawsuit claims in a footnote that last year before cases were filed, Watson offered each plaintiff $100,000, along with an “aggressive nondisclosure agreement.”
“Of course, we now know that Deshaun Watson offered each Plaintiff $100,000 to settle their cases, but not all would accept that amount, due to the aggressive nondisclosure agreement that Watson’s team proposed,” the lawsuit reads, via ProFootballTalk.
According to reports, the Dolphins, who were interested in trading for the quarterback in 2021, wanted all 22 cases active at the time settled with NDA language before making a deal.
However, only 18 of the 22 women were willing to accept the $100,000, PFT reports. Earlier in 2021, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Tony Buzbee, wanted the settlement to include nondisclosure language, but Watson and his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, reportedly did not.
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Similar to several of the other civil lawsuits, the 23rd plaintiff Smith was contacted via Instagram, according to the lawsuit. She had not previously worked with any Texans players. During the first massage on June 7, the quarterback allegedly “kept demanding Plaintiff to go inside of his anus,” according to the lawsuit.
It escalated to Watson grabbing Smith’s buttocks and repeatedly “asking Plaintiff if she wanted his penis in her mouth” during the second session, per the lawsuit. During the third, he allegedly “repeatedly requested that Plaintiff have sex with him,” telling her that there was a condom in his bag, according to the lawsuit.
Now, Watson still awaits his fate as the NFL continues to investigate to determine whether or not he will be punished for the 2022 season.
Although the civil lawsuits are still ongoing, Cleveland traded for Watson in March and signed him to a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million. During his introductory press conference with the Browns, Watson denied assaulting, harassing or disrespecting any woman.
Watson previously faced multiple criminal complaints; however, he is not facing charges following two separate grand jury hearings. On March 11, a Harris County grand jury returned nine “no” decisions on nine criminal complaints against Watson. A Harris County prosecutor said that the decision concluded criminal proceedings against him in that county, and Watson was traded shortly afterward. A grand jury in Brazoria County declined to charge Watson on a 10th count on March 24.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell revealed last week that the league is “nearing the end of the investigation” into Watson. However, no timeline was provided on when a ruling would be issued by the disciplinary officer.
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