HOUSTON (AP) — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson must say whether he had sex with 18 massage therapists who supported him last year following criminal complaints, a judge in Texas ruled Tuesday.
USA Today reported that Watson has 30 days to comply. He previously would not address his past with the therapists. Watson also has to provide other information about his massage history since 2019, including any language in his contract with the Texans about massages.
One of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, Watson was traded last month from Houston to Cleveland.
He has been accused by 22 women of sexual misconduct during therapy sessions, many of which he arranged by contacting the therapists on social media in 2020 and 2021.
To this point, two grand juries have declined to indict Watson on 10 criminal complaints filed to Houston police. He still faces the civil suits and has been giving depositions on those for several weeks.
As part of those civil lawsuits, the women's attorneys want Watson to answer written “requests for admission” about whether he had sex with the 18 therapists who backed him after the first lawsuits against him were filed in March 2021.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys say the answers would demonstrate a pattern and motives for setting up the massages.
At Tuesday's hearing, Harris County District Court Judge Rabeea Sultan Collier ruled in the plaintiff's favor, USA Today said. Watson's attorney asked for the reasoning but Collier didn't explain.
“The objection is overruled,” the judge said in response. “Thank you.”
Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler, did not play last season after asking the Texans to trade him. When the first grand jury chose not to indict Watson, it triggered a bidding war by the Browns and several NFL teams.
Watson initially turned down the Browns before changing his mind, waiving his no-trade clause and signing a record five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract with Cleveland.
Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said they initially struggled with the decision to pursue Watson, knowing it would not be popular with many fans. However, they said they became more comfortable with signing him after meeting with Watson and learning more about him.
When introduced by Cleveland late last month, Watson told the media: “I’ve never assaulted or disrespected or harassed any woman in my life. I’ve never done these things people are alleging.” It was the first time he had answered direct questions about the allegations.
Watson still faces likely discipline by the NFL.
Last week, Commissioner Roger Goodell said there was no timetable on the league's investigation into Watson's off-field behavior. An independent arbitrator will determine whether Watson violated the league's personal-conduct policy before Goodell issues any penalty.
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