The lawsuits filed against Deshaun Watson were in the works before his requests to be traded from the Texans in January.
Sports Illustrated obtained text messages that revealed Ashley Solis, who filed the first lawsuit against the quarterback, was in touch with Tony Buzbee's law firm in late December 2020.
The messages, which were between Solis's colleague and Susan, a veteran massage therapist SI spoke with, indicate that contact was made with the law firm before Week 16 of the NFL season, which debunks theories that the lawsuits were in response to his trade demand.
Buzbee had previously told The Washington Post that Solis contacted his law firm "in late January," and he shared a similar timeline with the Houston Chronicle.
Solis filed her civil lawsuit on March 16 and alleged that Watson "assaulted [her] by touching her with his penis" during a massage session in March 2020 at her home in Texas. The lawsuit also states that Watson contacted her through Instagram; however, Buzbee referenced a "referring therapist" in Solis's case during a press conference on April 6.
From March 16 until April 14, 23 lawsuits were filed against Watson alleging sexual harassment and sexual assault, including one from this past March. One lawsuit was dropped by a plaintiff "for now," according to court documents, "in light of privacy and security concerns."
The allegations range from his refusing to cover his genitals during massages to forcing women to give him oral sex, spanning from March 2020 until March '21. He's also being investigated by the Houston Police Department, and as of May 11, 10 of the plaintiffs had spoken with HPD.
The NFL investigation is still ongoing, and SI learned that the league investigators have interviewed at least one massage therapist who is not among the plaintiffs or licensed massage therapists who issued statements in support of Watson through Rusty Hardin's law firm.
Over the last few years, Watson has worked with, at minimum, 44 different massage therapists—23 who filed lawsuits, 18 licensed massage therapists who issued the previously mentioned statements of support and other therapists who spoke with SI. However, he has reached out to more than that.
A member of the Texans' medical staff was concerned about Watson's hiring massage therapists through Instagram because of possible injury risk.
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