Deshaun Watson Settles 20 of 24 Sexual Misconduct Lawsuits | Sports News

Written by Joan A. Lozano, The Associated Press

HOUSTON (AFP) – Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has reached an agreement to settle 20 of 24 civil lawsuits filed by women who accused him of sexual assault and harassment, a women’s attorney said Tuesday.

Watson, who was accused by massage therapists of harassing, assaulting or touching them during dates when he was playing for the Houston Texans, can still be suspended if the NFL determines he violated the league’s personal conduct policy.

“I am announcing today that all but four of the cases against Deshaun Watson have been settled. We are working through the paperwork related to those settlements,” Houston attorney Tony Busby said in a statement. Once we do that, those specific cases will be dismissed.

Busby, who represents all 24 women, said the terms of the settlements are “confidential” and that his legal team “will not comment further on the settlements or those issues.”

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The first 22 lawsuits were filed in March and April 2021. The last two lawsuits were filed after HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” aired an interview last month with two women who detailed their encounters with Watson.

The settlement also comes after The New York Times reported earlier this month that Watson booked massage dates with at least 66 different women over a 17-month period while playing for the Texas team. The report also stated that a representative from Texas presented Watson with a nondisclosure agreement that he had given to some of the women to sign.

Rusty Harden, Watson’s chief attorney, did not immediately respond with an email or text message requesting comment.

Last week, Watson said he intended to clear his name and avoided any questions about whether he would agree with any of the women.

“I’ve never gotten used to anyone,” Watson said June 14 in his first public comment since Al Brown made it in March. I didn’t harass anyone nor did I harass anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything.”

In March, two separate Texas jurors refused to indict Watson over criminal complaints arising from the allegations.

Then Cleveland signed Watson to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract in March, persuading Pro Bowler three times to waive the no-trade clause and join a solid roster team.

The Browns had no immediate comment on the settlements.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the settlements “have no bearing on the collectively negotiated disciplinary process.”

A league official told the Associated Press that “the settlement does not give anyone a pass” and noted that the lengthy suspension remains in place. The person spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the investigation has not been concluded.

Busby said he plans to bring the four unresolved cases to trial, including the first by Ashley Solis, who has previously declared her name. In an interview with HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Solis said she felt threatened by Watson after her massage when he told her she had a career protecting her and “I know you don’t want anyone messing with her like I don’t want anyone messing with me.”

Without Solis, Busby said, “the behavior these women experienced will likely continue unchecked.”

“The reality is that without her courage and willingness to step up, the NFL would not currently consider discipline; there would be no scrutiny of how teams intentionally or inadvertently enabled certain behavior,” Buzbee said.

Cleveland, who had spent nearly two decades searching for a quarterback, followed Watson and signed despite his complicated legal situation.

Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam knew Brown would face heavy criticism for the move, but were comfortable with the decision after conducting their own investigation and meeting privately with Watson.

Now, the team is eager to see how long they might be without Watson. Brown’s side have signed veteran reserve Jacoby Brissett, who will move to the primary job if Watson is suspended.

AP sports writer Tom Weathers of Cleveland and AP professional soccer writer Rob Maddy in Tampa, Florida, contributed to this report.

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