After Tuesday’s news conference, Rusty Hardin, a lawyer representing Watson, took aim at the claims by Buzbee and Solis. Hardin released a series of emails that suggested that Buzbee “sought $100,000 in hush money on behalf of Ms. Solis to quietly settle the allegations the month before he filed the first lawsuit.” All of the accusers, according to the lawsuits, have filed claims seeking “minimal compensatory damages.”
In one email from February, Scott Gaffield, general counsel at Athletes First, the agency that represents Watson, rebuffed Buzbee’s demand on behalf of Solis for $100,000 because “we don’t believe that the alleged facts show that Deshaun did anything wrong …”
In addition to the 22 civil claims, the case against Watson widened last week when the Houston Police Department acknowledged that it had begun investigating Watson after a complaint was filed against him. Buzbee said Tuesday that at least one other person had also filed a complaint against Watson with the police. It is unclear whether either person is also a plaintiff in the lawsuits filed against Watson in Harris County, Texas.
While nearly two dozen claims have been filed against Watson in less than one month, the legal machinations are only beginning. The cases are now assigned to several judges for review, but it is unclear when or if they will be consolidated, something that would streamline decisions on the anonymity of the accusers, any motions to dismiss, potential discovery and myriad other steps that might lead to trial.
Other factors may shape the contours of the case, including any potential developments in the investigations by the police and the N.F.L., which began its own inquiry and can suspend Watson while it looks into the allegations against him. Though the accusations have mounted in a short span of time, the legal proceedings are in very early stages, according to Stephanie Stradley, a lawyer in Houston who writes frequently about legal matters concerning the Texans and the N.F.L.
“If you were making a football analogy, the ball’s been kicked off and people are running down the field, but no one’s caught the ball yet,” she said. “These cases are hard enough as it is when the world isn’t watching. They can be kind of messy sorting out what the full facts are.”