The woman who filed the first lawsuit accusing Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual harassment has come forward and spoken to the media.
At a press conference organized by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who is defending her and 21 other women who have filed lawsuits, massage therapist Ashley Solis wept as she shared her story.
“I’m here to take back the power and take back control,” Ms Solis said. “I’m a survivor of assault and harassment.”
Watson allegedly attacked Ms Solis at her home on March 30, 2020, according to Ms Solis.
“Some days I feel like a hero, other days I feel like a failure,” she said. “I can no longer practice the profession I love the most without my hands shaking during the session.
“I got into massage therapy to heal people. To heal their minds and bodies. To bring peace to their souls. Deshaun Watson has robbed me of that.”
Ms. Solis admitted to suffering from anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.
“We were all deceived into thinking Deshaun Watson was a good guy, and unfortunately we know that good guys can do terrible things,” she said.
A Second Suspected Victim’s Statement was Read Aloud
Lauren Baxley, a second woman, read a statement at the press conference. When Watson revealed himself to her and touched her with his genitals, Ms Baxley said she felt “powerless and trapped.”
“My anger and disgust burned within me, both at you and at myself,” she said.
“My false sense of shame and the way I had been cornered did not sit well with my outspoken nature against abuse of any kind.”
Ms Solis had met with the Houston Police Department, according to Mr Buzbee. Watson was the focus of a police inquiry, the department confirmed last week.
Watson, 25, has refuted the women’s claims that he preyed on them using massages as a pretext.
He is accused of showing his genitals to the women and pressuring at least one of them to perform oral sex in the litigation.
Last September, Watson signed a four-year, $US156 million ($203.6 million) contract extension with the Texans, and he went on to make his third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance. In January, however, he demanded a trade.
“People say that I’m doing this just for money,” Ms Solis said on Tuesday. “That is false. I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman.
Solis was Looking for ‘Hush Money’
Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, issued a statement following the press conference, which included descriptions of emails between Mr Buzbee and Scott Gaffield, the general counsel of Athletes First, the agency representing the Houston quarterback.
“According to the documentation below, Mr Buzbee sought $US100,000 ($130,500) in hush money on behalf of Ms Solis to quietly settle the allegations the month before he filed the first lawsuit,” Mr Hardin said in the statement.
“‘My client’s demand is $100,000,” Mr Buzbee’s associate Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey wrote in a February 9, 2021 email on behalf of Ms Solis.
Ms Brandfield-Harvey responded the next day with a clarification of the $100,000 demand, saying, “This offer remains available until Friday of this week.”
Both of the emails are copied to Mr. Buzbee.
Mr Buzbee and Ms Brandfield-Harvey received a response from Gaffield ten days later, inquiring about “the reasoning behind the $100k demand” because “we don’t accept that the alleged facts prove that Deshaun did anything wrong.”
“Mr Buzbee responded that same morning, ‘We made a legit demand. You rejected it. We won’t be making another or bid against ourselves’,” Mr Hardin said.
The NFL’s investigation into Watson is still ongoing, according to spokesperson Brian McCarthy.
“The allegations are deeply disturbing and we take these issues very seriously. Immediately following news of the first allegations last month, and as has been reported, we initiated an investigation under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.
“We are continuing to closely monitor all developments in the matter,” he said.
Since the first complaint was filed last month, the Texans have been mostly silent. However, the team’s management sent a letter to season-ticket holders on Monday night.
Texans are Keeping an eye on the Situation
“We want to assure you that we take these allegations very seriously,” read the letter from the McNair family. “We respect the legal process and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
“As we await the results of these investigations, we express our firm opposition to any sort of sexual assault; our families and the entire Houston Texans organization are profoundly troubled by any form of violence, and we condemn this type of behavior,” the letter continued.
“We will continue to commit resources to help prevent abusive behaviours from occurring in the community and ensure respect for all.
“Over the past 10 years, the Houston Texans Foundation, the McNair Foundation and the McNair family have donated more than $US10 million to organisations whose focus [centres] on strengthening families, preventing abuse and providing much-needed services to those who have fallen victim to domestic violence or sexual abuse.
“This is deeply personal to our family and remains a priority.”
Source: ABC World News