Two women identified themselves as plaintiffs in sexual assault and harassment lawsuits against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, the first to reveal their names.
Both women, Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley, are massage therapists. Solis attended a Tuesday news conference held at the office of Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing the 22 plaintiffs that have filed lawsuits against Watson. Baxley's account was read aloud in a prepared statement.
Buzbee said Solis was the first person to file a lawsuit against Watson.
"I am a survivor of assault and harassment. Deshaun Watson is my assaulter and my harasser," Solis said in a statement. "Watson assaulted and harassed me on March 30, 2020, in my own home, doing what I love most: massage therapy."
She said she can no longer operate on patients without her hands shaking, adding that images of Watson's face flash across her mind during sessions with others. She said the profession that "I love so much has been forever tainted."
"I will not let Deshaun Watson define who I am. I will not let him win. He needs to be held accountable for his actions," Solis said. "I will not let him take my power away. I am strong now, and I know who I am."
"... I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman. And I come forward now in the hopes that no other human being will assault another in the future."
Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, released a statement Tuesday evening in response to the press conference. He specifically commented on Solis saying the lawsuit is not for money. Hardin mentioned that Buzbee's associate, Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, had sought "$100,000 in hush money on behalf of Ms. Solis to quietly settle the allegations the month before he filed the first lawsuit."
Buzbee was copied on the emails, according to Hardin.
Baxley's statement, which was read by Brandfield-Harvey, said Watson "clearly directed me away from a therapeutic glute massage to [his] anus" in a session last June.
"Every boundary from professional and therapeutic to sexual and degrading you crossed or attempted to cross," Baxley's statement read. "You insisted that I not use my knuckles or forearms, but that I use my fingers for digital stimulation, which is an ethical violation of massage practice when working in the gluteal area."
Buzbee said two women, including Solis, have gone to the Houston Police Department to make criminal complaints against Watson. Last Friday, the department released a statement saying a report concerning Watson had been filed and that police were investigating.
The 22nd lawsuit against Watson was posted to the Harris County District Court on Monday. The nearly two dozen lawsuits filed in the last three weeks against Watson explicitly cite events dating as far back as March 30, 2020, and as recent as March 5, 2021. Buzbee said 15 of the plaintiffs are Black women, four of the plaintiffs are white women and three of the plaintiffs are Hispanic women.
He also said he turned away five potential additional plaintiffs because "we did not believe we could sustain a case for" them.
The lawsuit posted Monday says Watson has "used more than fifty different women for massages" and "some made clear that they were unlicensed, and others made sure they did not specialize in massage therapy."
Watson denied the account in the initial lawsuit in a statement on Twitter on March 16 but has not commented on the recent accounts. His attorney, Hardin, later said he believes "any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false."
Upon learning a police report had been filed, Hardin said in a statement: “We welcome this long overdue development. Now we will learn the identity of at least one accuser. We will fully cooperate with the Houston Police Department.”
Last week, Hardin's office also published a press release with the accounts of what it says are 18 female massage therapists who "are voluntarily issuing statements in support of Deshaun—with their names attached."
"These statements show the other side to this story that has been so lacking in the flurry of anonymous complaints filed by opposing counsel," Hardin said in a statement.
On Monday, Texans owner Cal McNair wrote in a letter to season ticket holders saying the team is taking the allegations of assault against Watson "very seriously."
"As reported, HPD and the National Football League are conducting investigations and we will cooperate fully," McNair wrote. "We respect the legal process and will continue to monitor the situation closely."
“While we await the conclusion of these investigations, we express our strong stance against any form of sexual assault. Our family and the entire Houston Texans organization are deeply troubled by any form of abuse and we condemn this type of behavior. We will continue to commit resources to help prevent abusive behaviors from occurring in our community and ensure respect for all.
"... This is deeply personal to our family and remains a priority.”