Another woman has filed a lawsuit against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, becoming the 23rd civil case to accuse him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions in 2020.
It is the first lawsuit filed against him since the 22 others were filed in March and April of 2021 and potentially could complicate any plan for the NFL to resolve questions about Watson’s playing status before the season.
In this case, the lawsuit filed Tuesday states the woman had three encounters with Watson in which Watson’s behavior got progressively worse. During the third encounter in the summer of 2020, the lawsuit states Watson exposed himself to her, touched the woman between her legs and repeatedly requested that the woman have sex with him.
After first deciding not to file a lawsuit against Watson, the woman changed her mind after watching a segment about the lawsuits last week on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”
“In that piece, plaintiff was struck by the courage of the victims willing to step forward and speak and was extremely displeased by Watson and his legal team’s mistreatment and revictimizations of the plaintiffs,” the new lawsuit states. “But it was Watson himself claiming that even now he has ‘no regrets’ and has done nothing wrong that solidified her resolve. She brings this case seeking minimum compensation, but to obtain a short finding that Watson’s conduct was wrong.”
Watson, 26, has denied wrongdoing and has not been arrested or charged. His attorney, Rusty Hardin, said the women are lying, out for money and said three of the cases involved consensual sex initiated by the plaintiffs. He didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
The new lawsuit states that the woman did not want to do a third massage on Watson after her first two encounters with him in Houston. But she could not refuse Watson as a client because her boss at the massage spa, Dionne Louis, wanted Watson as a client and wanted to keep him happy, according to the lawsuit filed in Harris County, Texas.
This spa “provided women for Watson” and Louis “facilitated massages for Watson and knew Watson was attempting to have sex with them,” the suit states.
The woman learned Watson paid Louis $5,000 for Louis’s “work,” and the lawsuit includes an exhibit of the apparent Cash App receipt. Other plaintiffs also have been associated with Louis.
When the third massage was over, the woman decided to quit her job there, the suit states.
“She was completely traumatized by the experience with Watson,” the suit states. “She now realizes that Deshuan Watson, with Dionne Louis’s help, was manipulating her the entire time.”
Louis denied this when reached Tuesday by USA TODAY Sports.
“All of that is playful,” Louis said by phone. Louis’ attorney declined comment.
Like many others, the new plaintiff said Watson initially contacted her on Instagram and did not have prior contact with him. She is represented by attorney Tony Buzbee, who is lead counsel for all 23 plaintiffs.
“Today we filed suit for the 23rd plaintiff in this litigation,” Buzbee said in a statement Tuesday. “Other cases may come. The Watson defense team has vilified these women and this cause. Shame on them! We look forward to trying this case in court.”
The NFL also has been investigating these cases and could suspend Watson if he is found to have violated the league’s personal conduct policy. In March, two grand juries in Texas considered a combined 10 criminal complaints made against Watson to police but declined to indict him on criminal charges.
Watson previously played for the Houston Texans but recently was traded to the Browns, who gave him a record guaranteed contract of $230 million over five years.
Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email: email@example.com