HOUSTON — Deshaun Watson’s attorney said Friday there were sexual encounters involving his client and some massage therapists, but they were all "consensual."
It was Rusty Hardin’s first news conference about the 22 lawsuits that accuse Watson of civil or sexual assault. Watson wasn’t there because Hardin won’t let him answer questions due to the pending investigations.
“This has been an incredible ordeal for Deshaun,” Hardin said. Watson is having trouble eating and sleeping and it's also affecting people close to him, according to his attorneys.
Hardin sent two women from his team to spend several hours questioning Watson before he agreed to take the case. Both came back and told Hardin they believe Watson is innocent.
“We deeply, deeply do not believe this guy ever did anything nonconsensual with any woman during any of this. He didn’t coerce them, we don’t believe he used his position, we don’t believe he intimidated them,” the women told Hardin.
Hours before Hardin’s press conference, two judges ruled that the names of 13 of the 22 women who have filed lawsuits accusing against Watson will be made public, according to a report from the Associated Press.
Hardin argued the use of anonymous lawsuits violates state law and is asking that all the names be released.
"How in the world are we supposed to respond if we don’t know the names of the people?" Hardin said. "We’re not supposed to have to guess who is accusing us of doing something wrong."
The women's lawyer, Tony Buzbee, argued against releasing their names, the AP reported. He said doing so could put their lives in danger.
Hardin pleaded with the public not to attack the women on social media when their names are released.
Two of the accusers – Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley – went public earlier this week and Buzbee said Solis has since received death threats.
He said most of the other women had already given him permission to release their names.
"As I said in Court, 'be careful what you ask for.' Identifying these women at this point adds even more credibility to the allegations being made," Buzbee said in a statement. "I am proud to stand with these brave and courageous women."
You can read Buzbee's full statement here.