Deshaun Watson attorney probes whether women who are suing suffered emotional distress
The attorney for Deshaun Watson has asked a judge to compel Watson’s accusers to produce their medical records after they claimed to have suffered emotional distress from their encounters with Watson in massage sessions.
In a court filing submitted Thursday, Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said only four of the 22 women who have sued Watson have produced some medical records as requested and none have produced a complete set of the records.
In their lawsuits, the women accused the NFL quarterback of sexual misconduct during massage sessions from early 2020 to March 2021.
“After publicly vilifying Mr. Watson for more than a year, plaintiffs now seek to withhold and conceal material evidence that would reveal the truth: Mr. Watson did not assault or harass any plaintiff,” Hardin stated. “Mr. Watson respectfully requests that the court compel plaintiffs to fully comply with their discovery obligations.”
In one case, plaintiff Lauren Baxley was diagnosed with “complex PTSD” by her therapist, according to court records, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder. However, in a deposition testimony in January, that same therapist was presented with information from Hardin’s legal team that Hardin says undermines the woman’s case.
“Did you know Ms. Baxley responded to Mr. Watson 19 times after the day of the massage with him?” asked one of Watson’s attorneys, Rachel Lewis, referring to text messages.
“No. I wasn’t aware of that,” the therapist replied, according to a transcript filed in court to support Hardin’s argument.
“Are you aware that she offered to work with him again and they worked on scheduling additional sessions?” Watson’s attorney asked the therapist.
“Really?” the therapist replied. “Hmmm. I never would have known that if you hadn’t told me. No. I didn’t know that.”
The text messages shown to the therapist in the depositions include Watson asking her if she’s taking clients, asking about another spa that “you sent me” to and him saying hello to her, according to the transcript.
Baxley’s attorneys, Tony Buzbee and Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, responded Friday with a statement to USA TODAY Sports that said Watson contacted Baxley and she responded because she was afraid of retaliation, as she testified in her own deposition.
“Her counselor explained that it is not uncommon for victims to keep in contact with their abusers,” the statement said. “Doing so does not mean that the victim consented in any way to the perpetrator’s abusive behavior. Her counselor testified that the symptoms she observed with Ms. Baxley are consistent with someone who has been assaulted. Watson’s lawyers neglected to include any of this information of course.”
In the deposition, the therapist was asked if Baxley’s responding to Watson’s messages would be consistent with someone who feared retaliation and wanted to “keep things normal.”
“I mean, I was really surprised that she was responding at all,” the therapist replied. “I mean, I – I would think it's not consistent. Most people would not want to – I would – I would think that most clients that had actually been traumatized and sexually assaulted would not want to have anything to do with their perpetrator.”
Earlier in the deposition, the therapist said, “I would still more than likely diagnose her with … trauma. Because it sounded like it was pretty traumatic.”
The therapist said it still would have been helpful to know about the text messages.
“Is all this information you should have to – to fully be able to diagnose Ms. Baxley?” Lewis asked the therapist.
“Yeah,” said the therapist. “I mean, especially the contact – contacting him. I don’t understand that. And then according to what you said, she even made an appointment or was willing to make an appointment, another appointment, another follow-up. … Makes no sense to me. I’m not saying that’s a lie, but it doesn’t fit the picture. It doesn’t fit the scenario.”
Hardin’s filing stated he “has every reason to believe that plaintiffs’ medical records would contain similar evidence undermining their claims and alleged mental anguish.”
Hardin’s filing also pointed out that the therapist testified that she believed Baxley was not “fully truthful” in their sessions and that the texting made the therapist question her previous opinion that that Watson was a sexual abuser.
Watson has denied wrongdoing and recently was traded to the Cleveland Browns, where he received record-setting contract of $230 million over five years.
Baxley came forward publicly last year when she consented to have an attorney read a letter from her to the news media. Like other plaintiffs, she said Watson contacted her on Instagram to arrange a massage and then assaulted her and harassed her by touching her with his penis and exposing himself.
Most of the lawsuits against Watson are not expected to go trial until after February 2023.
Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: email@example.com