HOUSTON — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson now faces a 23rd civil lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct, following a new filing by attorney Tony Buzbee.
The lawsuit was brought by Nia Smith, a licensed professional cosmetologist from Houston who last summer spoke publicly about her alleged interactions with Watson during a video appearance with YouTube personality Tasha K. Her costume bears similarities to the 22 precedents facing Watson, alleging that Watson contacted her for a professional massage via social media. The lawsuit says she had three sessions with Watson that saw her behavior allegedly grow more aggressive with each encounter, culminating in sexual advances and unwanted sexual touching.
He goes on to claim that Watson’s defense team approached Smith for a meeting when women began filing civil lawsuits against the quarterback in March 2021, a commitment Smith made to try to influence him to that she not pursue litigation against Watson. In that allegation, Smith accused one of Watson’s attorneys of suggesting that “we black women need to stick together.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Buzbee added, “More cases may arise. The Watson defense team vilified these women and this cause. Shame on them! We look forward to bringing this matter to trial in court.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, responded with a scathing statement, again describing the development as an attempt to “advertise” Buzbee and “salary” for his clients.
“Deshaun Watson vehemently denies the allegations, just as he has since she first discussed them with members of our firm in March of last year,” Hardin said. “She repeated the allegations on social media in August and he later denied them. The only new thing about its claims is the embellishment which makes them more extreme than previous releases. Deshaun’s denial remains the same.
“The two highly respected lawyers in our firm, Letitia Quinones and Rachel Lewis, also vehemently deny that there was any coercion or intimidation during the very cordial meeting at Vic and Anthony’s house (Mr Buzbee and the complainant did not even no reason about where the meeting was, let alone what was said.) They met with her to see if she was one of Mr. Buzbee’s yet-unnamed complainants. declined to identify his clients. The suggestion that either of these two accomplished lawyers said “we black women need to stick together” is absurd. The interview was so enjoyable that she then joined the lawyers for dinner.
“We know that over a year ago other lawyers were representing her and they finally ended the representation. This complainant has long had a vendetta against Deshaun ever since she jealously and angrily posted Deshaun’s personal data on social media in November 2020. By filing her complaint now, she obviously has not been swayed by recent developments. . We’re not surprised that Mr. Buzbee is willing to say just about anything to get more publicity. He knows the NFL continues to investigate these cases, and this is a transparent attempt to further punish the man he sees as a potential payday.
Smith’s lawsuit says she initially declined to take legal action against Watson for fear of a backlash before changing her mind after watching last week’s episode of “Real Sports,” in which two of Watson’s accusers were speaking officially about their alleged encounters with him.
“Nia Smith changed her mind after watching the HBO Real Sports article about the Deshaun Watson lawsuits,” the lawsuit reads. “In this article, the plaintiff was struck by the courage of victims willing to come forward and speak out, and was extremely upset with the mistreatment and re-victimization of plaintiffs by Watson and his legal team. But it’s Watson himself who claimed that even now he has “no regrets” and has done nothing wrong which has strengthened his resolve.
Smith goes on to allege that her former employer played a role in setting up the interactions with Watson, then ignored her complaints after the sessions.
“‘A New U Salon Spa’ supplied wives to Watson,” the lawsuit states. “Dionne Louis, the spa owner, facilitated massages for Watson and knew Watson and knew Watson was trying [to] have sex with them. The plaintiff raised her concerns about Watson with Ms. Louis. Louis brushed aside the concerns. It was later learned that Watson had paid Dionne Louis at least five thousand dollars for Louis’ “work”. »
The allegation included a pair of exhibits filed with the suit, allegedly showing texts by Louis. The first showed an alleged $5,000 cash transfer from Watson with a “For machine” memo followed by text from Louis stating, “He didn’t give me the 20,000 I asked for but he dyed [sic] give me 5k. A second exposure showed two photos of what appeared to be a large sum of money in rubber bands, preceded by text that read “DD cash me out”.
Louis called the allegations “ridiculous” when reached by USA Today.
Watson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing as previous lawsuits unfold. Hardin also maintained that any sexual contact with women in costume was consensual. Two Texas grand juries have so far declined to indict Watson on criminal charges, following at least 10 complaints filed with the Houston Police Department by women involved in litigation against the quarterback. .
This latest lawsuit comes as the NFL winds down its investigation into Watson. The league was expected to report its findings to an independent disciplinary officer to determine whether Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy. Watson’s camp and the Browns hoped a decision would be made by the time the team kicks off training camp in July.