Browns' Deshaun Watson Faces 24th Civil Lawsuit over Assault, Misconduct Allegations

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 6, 2022

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson runs through a drill during an NFL football practice at the team's training facility Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
AP Photo/Ron Schwane

Cleveland Browns star Deshaun Watson is facing a 24th lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault or misconduct.

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk shared a statement from the plaintiff's attorney, Tony Buzbee:

"The allegations made in this new case are strikingly similar to those made by many of the other victims. Lost in the media frenzy surrounding Deshaun Watson is that these are twenty-four strong, courageous women who, despite ridicule, legal shenanigans, and intense media scrutiny, continue to stand firm for what is right. Setting aside the legal wrangling, the complicity of the NFL, or the failures of the criminal justice system, the resounding story that should be told here is that these women are true heroes. I will say again, our entire team is incredibly proud to represent these women, and we look forward to the day when we can lay out their cases in detail in front of a jury."

Rusty Hardin, Watson's attorney, issued a statement on the latest lawsuit, saying his legal team had yet to investigate the new filing:

Jake Trotter @Jake_Trotter

Rusty Hardin on the latest lawsuit: We are unable to respond to the new lawsuit at this time. Our legal team has not had time to investigate this new filing and had not heard her name until today. Deshaun continues to deny he did anything inappropriate with any of the plaintiffs

Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters Monday the Browns are "trying to be respectful of the process."

Defector's Kalyn Kahler shared a portion of the suit that lays out the allegations:

Kalyn Kahler @kalynkahler

24th plaintiff says that she stopped the massage after Watson got an erection, but that he continued to masturbate in front of her and then ejaculated, getting some on her chest and face. She says she quit massage therapy soon after. <a href="https://t.co/LP6vacph7J">pic.twitter.com/LP6vacph7J</a>

The woman said she and Watson set up a massage session on Aug. 9, 2020. Watson allegedly "demanded that she work on his inner thighs and quadriceps," and his "tone became aggressive as he repeatedly demanded that she go higher and higher into his inner thighs."

The towel that was covering Watson fell off during the massage, and the plaintiff said he proceeded to masturbate in front of her.

Per Kahler, the woman decided to file suit "after reading that Watson has no regrets and that he has done nothing wrong."

During his introductory press conference with the Browns, the veteran quarterback maintained his innocence and told reporters, "I don't have any regrets."

Beginning in March 2021, 22 separate civil suits were filed accusing Watson of sexual assault or misconduct. A 23rd suit was filed Tuesday.

Days later, Hardin drew criticism when he said on SportsRadio 610's Payne & Pendergast that engaging in sexual activities during or after a massage isn't criminal unless money changes hands for that purpose.

SportsRadio 610 @SportsRadio610

Deshaun Watson's attorney Rusty Hardin ended his interview with <a href="https://twitter.com/SethCPayne?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SethCPayne</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SeanTPendergast</a> this morning reminding the audience that "happy endings" to massages are not necessarily illegal. <a href="https://t.co/dkWBghW7Eg">https://t.co/dkWBghW7Eg</a> <a href="https://t.co/V0nOq1PeAi">pic.twitter.com/V0nOq1PeAi</a>

Hardin addressed the comments, saying he was only speaking hypothetically and that Watson "did nothing wrong."

Jake Trotter @Jake_Trotter

Rusty Hardin, Deshaun Watson’s attorney, sends out this statement after giving this radio interview in Houston: <a href="https://t.co/Y53SD0DoHP">https://t.co/Y53SD0DoHP</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Browns?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Browns</a> <a href="https://t.co/CMqcigRLuH">pic.twitter.com/CMqcigRLuH</a>

In March, a second grand jury in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal charges, but the civil suits remain open. The three-time Pro Bowler remains subject to punishment from the NFL under the league's personal conduct policy.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in May the league had no firm timeline for when its investigation into Watson would conclude but acknowledged the NFL was "nearing the end."

That was before the 23rd and 24th suits were filed, so it's unclear whether the inquiry will extend further.