Two Harris County District Court judges have ordered Houston attorney Tony Buzbee to re-file the civil lawsuits that allege sexual assault and harassment against quarterback Deshaun Watson with the names of the accusers made public.
In separate hearings on Friday, state district Judge Dedra Davis granted Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, a request to identify one of the 22 plaintiffs. Buzbee will have two days to re-file. A second judge made the same determination in the cases of 12 other women Friday afternoon.
Hardin held a press conference Friday afternoon explaining why he and Watson had been silent.
"This has been incredible ordeal for Deshaun," Hardin said in an opening statement. "We toyed with the idea of having him here today but ultimately decided against that because it served no purpose because it was not going allow him to answer any questions."
Hardin said he had not spoken before today because "he does not know" what happened for sure, saying his biggest fear while investigating the lawsuits was being wrong about who a plaintiff was.
"We don't know the names of the people," Hardin said. "We are not supposed to guess of who is accusing us of doing something."
Hardin said he plans to take all 22 lawsuits filed against Watson to trial. He did acknowledge that there were "consensual acts" between the quarterback and some of the 22 women who filed lawsuits.
He reaffirmed that at no point did Watson engage in any acts that weren't "mutually desired."
"Were there sometimes consensual encounters? Yes," Hardin said.
He was asked to clarify his comments, to which he replied, "In some of these massages there's going to be no question. We've never run from it."
"I'm not going to go into what it is or the nature or the numbers or with whom," Hardin said about any consensual encounters between Watson and some of the plaintiffs. "But I think you can rightfully assume that. The question always that we have always been emphasizing: Never at any time, under any circumstances ... did this young man ever engage in anything that was not mutually desired by the other party."
Earlier this week, two of the 22 plaintiffs also publicly identified themselves at a news conference.
"We have said this before and we want to say it again: Deshaun did not force, coerce or intimidate anyone to do anything against their will," Hardin said in a statement on Thursday upon sharing the news he had filed the motion to try and make the plaintiffs public.
"As discussed in our filing, Mr. Buzbee's use of anonymous lawsuits violates Texas law and the basic concept of fairness. It is clear that, for Mr. Buzbee, this case has never been about seeking justice in a courtroom, but destroying Deshaun's reputation to enhance his own public profile and enrich himself. While I understand that anonymity often is used as a shield for victims, Mr. Buzbee is using it as a sword."
Hardin's office has also previously 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."
Ashley Solis, one of the two women who came forward earlier this week, said she will "not let Deshaun Watson define who I am. I will not let him win. He needs to be held accountable for his actions."
"...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."
Earlier this week, Nike became the first company to suspend its endorsement of Watson amid the lawsuits. Beats by Dre, Reliant Energy and supermarket chain H-E-B have also subsequently either suspended their work with, or said they will not renew their endorsement deals with, Watson.
In a statement Tuesday, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy called the allegations "deeply disturbing," adding that the league is investigating the matter and "takes these issues very seriously."
Texans owner Cal McNair also recently shared a letter to season-ticket holders saying it is taking the allegations of assault against Watson "very seriously," and said the team will cooperate with the Houston Police Department and NFL's investigations into Watson's conduct.