The first woman to file a sexual misconduct lawsuit against Deshaun Watson stood up Tuesday to tell her story publicly and said the NFL quarterback assaulted and molested her at her home on March 30, 2020.
Ashley Solis, a licensed massage therapist, was the first Watson prosecutor to reveal her identity among the 22 who have filed lawsuit against the Texans QB since March 16. After reading her testimony on television cameras, one of her lawyers also revealed the name of a second woman who had made similar allegations in a lawsuit – Lauren Baxley, who was identified as a different therapist.
“I am a survivor of assault and harassment,” said Solis of her attorney’s office in Houston. “Deshaun Watson is my attacker and my molester. Deshaun Watson attacked and molested me in my own home on March 30, 2020 while doing massage therapy. I am a licensed massage therapist. Now that the job I love so much is forever corrupted, I am deeply saddened but not surprised to see so many victims being accused in the press and by online commentators.
“And they have absolutely no idea what I am going through or what happened to me. I have no idea. This incident affected me in many ways, and these ways are difficult to describe. They are a series of emotions: guilt, embarrassment, shame “Courage, anger, sadness and numbness. Some days I feel like a hero. Other days I feel like a failure.”
Like Solis, Baxley said in a letter read by her attorney that Watson contacted her through Instagram to get her services. Baxley didn’t appear in front of cameras. Both are among the 22 plaintiffs who have accused him of sexual misconduct, including two accusing him of sexual assault.
Many describe a similar pattern – the Houston Texans quarterback reaching out on Instagram to arrange a massage session and then having them touch his genitals during the session.
Watson, 25, has not been arrested or prosecuted. He and his attorney Rusty Hardin have largely denied the allegations.
After Solis came forward, Hardin’s firm returned a statement saying that attorney Tony Buzbee had “requested $ 100,000 in hush money on Ms. Solis’s behalf to silently settle allegations one month before the first lawsuit was filed.”
Solis had previously said in her testimony that “people say that I only do this for money. That is wrong.”
Hardin’s law firm also showed an email exchange in February between a representative from Watson, Scott Gaffield, and two Solis attorneys: Buzbee and Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, an attorney with Buzbee’s law firm. The emails were part of an apparent offer to settle the case before the lawsuit was filed. Gaffield is General Counsel for Athletes First, the sports agency for a number of NFL players, including Watson. Gaffield said he was willing to pay off Solis to help Watson “learn a lesson”.
“We don’t think the alleged facts show that Deshaun did anything wrong about Ms. Solis, but we’re pleased to continue talking about a reasonable comparative figure because we believe he can learn a lesson on how he put himself into this situation, “wrote Gaffield on February 19.
Buzbee then answered Gaffield.
“We made a legitimate request. They refused,” wrote Buzbee, according to a press release on February 19. “We won’t do any more or bid against ourselves. We won’t have an in-depth dialogue about why you think your client did nothing wrong or how you would like this to be a” learning experience “for your” high profile athlete ” “How you relate to him. This is Houston, Texas. Perhaps you should find an attorney for him here so you and your client can tell both you and your client about the landscape and who you are dealing with. Speak soon.” . “
Gaffield explained his email Tuesday in a statement from Hardin’s company.
“We didn’t think the facts would show that Deshaun did something wrong with their customer,” the statement said. “We believed then – and now fully – that by interacting with people he doesn’t know Deshaun learned a lesson about putting yourself in this kind of situation. As the emails show, we were willing to continue discussions on Deshaun’s behalf to find ways to prevent a lawsuit and public spectacle. But Mr. Buzbee informed us that he was not ready. We expect this matter to be resolved in court. “
After the news of the first lawsuit was released, Watson wrote on Twitter that Buzbee had filed an “unsubstantiated six-digit settlement claim” prior to filing the lawsuit. Watson also said he looks forward to clearing his name and that he has never treated a woman “with anything other than the utmost respect.”
The lawsuits have all come from Buzbee’s law firm since March 16 and were filed by plaintiffs under the pen name Jane Doe. In Baxley’s case, she said her encounter with Watson took place last June. Brandfield-Harvey read a letter from Baxley that Baxley had addressed to Watson.
“I’ve been angry with you for so many reasons since that day in June,” said Baxley’s letter, according to Brandfield-Harvey. “I am furious that the talented and hardworking young black man who inspired so many children is nothing more than a predator with power. I am broken for your family, for your loved ones, for those who resign themselves to the fact that your charitable work and good personality are nothing more than a carefully crafted facade to silence your sacrifices and self-choose. “
The women seek compensation and are referred to as licensed massage therapists, beauticians, and other fitness and wellness professionals. Most of the alleged incidents occurred in Houston, according to lawsuits. Three more allegedly took place in California, Georgia, and Arizona.
On Friday the Houston Police Department said a report was filed against Watson and that it investigated. Buzbee said the report was not from Solis but from another customer.
“We welcome this long overdue development,” said Hardin in a statement on Friday. “Now we will find out the identity of at least one accuser. We will be working fully with the Houston Police Department. “
Hardin previously noted the lack of evidence presented to police in these cases, saying it was because Buzbee’s “parade of anonymous allegations did not involve the rigorous investigation of trained investigators or the need to confirm the truth of the allegations under oath.” could survive “.
Hardin also released a list of 18 named therapists who said Watson “never made them feel uncomfortable or demand anything that was outside the scope of a professional massage.”
Even if Watson is never charged with a crime, the NFL could suspend him for violating their Code of Conduct, depending on the results of their own investigation.
“The allegations are deeply troubling and we take these issues very seriously,” the NFL said in a statement. “Immediately after the news of the initial allegations last month and as reported, we opened an investigation into the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. We are continuing to monitor closely all developments on this matter.”
Contributors: Tom Schad