HOUSTON — The Houston Texans are named in a lawsuit filed by attorney Tony Buzbee on behalf of one of the massage therapists who've accused former Texan Deshaun Watson of inappropriate behavior.
The 42-page lawsuit was filed on behalf of Toi Gardner, referred to as "Jane Doe #17" in an earlier Buzbee lawsuit against Watson. Gardner says she was a massage therapy student when Watson contacted her. Her encounters with Watson happened in Brazoria County where a grand jury declined to indict the former Texans quarterback on criminal charges.
Gardner is not one of the 20 women who recently settled their lawsuits against the quarterback.
"Twenty of the lawsuits were not as strong as the four that remain," said KHOU 11 News legal analyst Carmen Roe. "Now, we are looking at deeper pockets with the Texans and you know Tony Buzbee has said we should expect more filings."
Watson lawsuit allegations
- The new lawsuit alleges the Texans provided Watson with an NDA, or non-disclosure agreement, after a woman publicly accused him of inappropriate conduct in the fall of 2020.
- Brent Nacarra, the team's director of security, had the woman's social media posts removed and scrubbed from the internet, according to the lawsuit obtained by KHOU 11 News. In a deposition, Watson later said Nacarra had them removed because they included his CashApp number and other private information.
- The Texans are accused of enabling Watson's alleged misconduct by providing him with a membership at The Houstonian Hotel and spa, paying for his rooms there and even loaning him their massage table.
- Genuine Touch, the massage business formally under contract with the team, was aware of "Watson's tendency to push boundaries" and his "towel trick," the suit alleges. The owner complained to the Texans that Watson was reaching out to random strangers on Instagram for massages instead of using her services, and was potentially risking exposure to COVID.
- According to the lawsuit, another therapist who regularly provided massages for players, and even traveled with the team, was aware of allegations against Watson. She pleaded the fifth when questioned by Buzbee about text messages referring to those allegations. She also pleaded the fifth when asked if she told the Texans about the allegations.
- Detective Baker, the lead investigator on the criminal case against Watson, said in a deposition that she believed Watson committed a crime in at least 10 of the cases, the suit says. A Harris County grand jury also declined to indict him on criminal charges.
We reached out to the Texans for comment and received the following statement.
“We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us today. Since March 2021, we have fully supported and complied with law enforcement and the various investigations. We will continue to take the necessary steps to address the allegations against our organization.”
Plaintiff Toi Gardner, 'Jane Doe #17' (Warning: Graphic)
Gardner, a flight attendant and single mother, said Watson contacted her via Instagram in November 2020 before she was a licensed massage therapist.
She said she was surprised when he contacted her via Instagram but she had met him before through a mutual friend so felt comfortable. Gardner said she didn't want to meet Watson at a hotel because she didn't want it to "look fishy."
She said she was in the process of moving, so Watson drove more than 35 minutes to her mother's house in Manvel for the session and insisted no one else be there. She said he made her sign an NDA.
Like the other accusers, Gardner said Watson insisted on bringing his own small towel. She said he repeatedly told her "go up in there" and "use your fingers" and "don't be scared," leaving her "uncomfortable and confused."
Gardner said Watson contacted her at 7 a.m. the next day and scheduled another massage. She wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt so she agreed.
She said Watson told her he'd just come from another massage which she thought was strange but he told her it was normal for an athlete to get several massages a day. This time, she said Watson was more aggressive with his requests.
According to Gardner, he got an erection and "aggressively moved his penis toward her hand, clearly trying to get her to touch it." She said he then ejaculated on her arm and hand without warning. He then left.
When Watson tried to set up another massage the same day at 4:30 p.m., she said no. Gardner said he texted her almost daily and called about three times a day, but she didn't reply or answer the calls.
Gardner said she felt "violated, disgusted, used and betrayed."
In her deposition, Detective Baker called Gardner's account "powerful and compelling, not to mention they knew each other prior."
This is the first lawsuit involving Watson to name the Texans as a defendant.
Watson settles 20 of 24 cases
Last week, Watson, now with the Cleveland Browns, reached an agreement to settle 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits, according to Buzbee.
"The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential. We won’t comment further on the settlements or those cases," Buzbee said. He said he plans to continue to pursue the four cases that weren't settled.
Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lead attorney, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
The previous week, Watson said he intended to clear his name and sidestepped any questions about whether he would settle.
“I never assaulted anyone,” Watson said in his first public comments since being introduced by the Browns in March. “I never harassed anyone or I never disrespected anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything.”
NFL investigation of Watson
Watson will have a hearing this week week with NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, three people familiar with the scheduled meeting told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Watson, who is facing a potential suspension from the league stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct by two dozen massage therapists in Texas, will meet with Robinson on Tuesday, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the hearing have not been disclosed publicly.
The hearing is a significant development in Watson's case as Robinson will decide if the 26-year-old violated the league's personal conduct policy. The league is expected to recommend significant discipline for Watson, who will be defended by the NFL Players Association in the high-profile case.
Roe said Watson won't have time to respond to the new lawsuit and that could work against him at the hearing.
"The timing of the settlements last week and lawsuit today are going to impact NFL-sanctioned hearings scheduled for tomorrow, and I don't think that timing is coincidental," the legal analyst told us.