Massage therapist speaks publicly about lawsuit against Deshaun Watson
HOUSTON - The first woman to file a lawsuit against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson spoke out publicly on Tuesday.
"My name is Ashley Solis. Remember that name. I hope every woman and man out there who is a survivor hears my story. I hope my story gives them courage to speak out. It has taken me a long time to get to this point, to come up publicly and speak my truth," she said during a news conference on Tuesday.
RELATED: 22nd lawsuit filed against Houston Texas QB Deshaun Watson
The first lawsuit was filed against Watson on March 16. Since then 21 other lawsuits have been filed against Watson in which women accuse him of assault and harassment during massage sessions.
The women are all identified as Jane Does in the lawsuits.
Attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing all of the women accusing Watson in the lawsuits, said Solis came to him with "a very troubling story".
"I spoke to her many different times. I discouraged her from coming forward. I discouraged her because I knew this would be the reaction. Ashley Solis is a very brave person. She's very brave. She was the first individual who filed a lawsuit. It is because of her bravery that we’re here. She has been a pioneer," Buzbee said.
Solis is a licensed massage therapist. She says the incident occurred last year.
"Deshaun Watson is my assaulter and my harasser. Deshaun Watson assaulted and harassed me on March 30, 2020 in my own home doing what I love most, massage therapy," Solis said.
She says her profession has "forever been tainted".
"I can no longer practice the profession that I love the most without shaking during the session. My hands shake whenever I place them on a client and I have to cut the session short. If you only knew how heartbreaking that is to me," Solis said.
Attorneys at the press conference also read a letter written by another woman who filed a lawsuit.
"This is a very brave young woman who came forward to us and now she wants this letter that she wrote to Deshaun Watson to be read as well. She was gracious enough to give me permission to read her letter on her behalf," said attorney Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey. "Her name is Lauren Baxley. Remember her name."
The letter reads in part, "I have written this on the recommendation of my trauma therapist to forgive myself for not speaking up sooner, to forgive myself for not being braver. But I have also written this so that you can know, without excuse or justification, that you have deeply and irreversibly brought terror to me and others."
Buzbee says Solis and at least one other person have provided a statement to the police without his involvement.
HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 06: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans in action against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
On Tuesday, the NFL said in a statement, "The allegations are deeply disturbing and we take these issues very seriously. Immediately following news of the first allegations last month, and as has been reported, we initiated an investigation under the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy. We are continuing to closely monitor all developments in the matter."
A league source confirmed the NFL has been in contact with Buzbee and would like to interview his clients if they are willing and he would make them available.
On Friday, the Houston Police Department said a criminal complaint had been filed with their department concerning Watson. They did not provide further details.
"As with any allegation, the Houston Police Department is now conducting an investigation and will not comment further during the investigative process," HPD said in a statement.
RELATED: Criminal complaint filed against Texans QB Deshaun Watson, Houston police say
On Tuesday afternoon following the press conference by Buzbee, the firm representing Watson put out a statement, saying,
At a press conference today, attorney Anthony Buzbee introduced the first plaintiff to the media. She identified herself as Ashley Solis. In her remarks, Ms. Solis stated: "People say that I’m doing this just for money. That is false."
Mr. Buzbee himself repeatedly claimed that the litigation he filed on behalf of other Jane Does "isn’t about money." At his initial press conference on March 19 announcing the first wave of lawsuits, Mr. Buzbee stated: "The case ain’t about money. And it’s certainly ain’t about seeking publicity or fame. I personally don’t need it. And these women don’t want it. This case is about female empowerment."
In fact, according to the documentation below, Mr. 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.
"My client’s demand is $100,000," Buzbee associate Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey wrote in a February 9, 2021 email on behalf of Ms. Solis. Ms. Brandfield-Harvey followed up with a clarification of the $100,000 demand later that same day. "This offer remains open until Friday of this week." Mr. Buzbee is copied on all of the emails.
The Watson representative who engaged in the discussions with Mr. Buzbee and his firm is Scott Gaffield, the General Counsel at the Athletes First agency of Laguna Beach.
On February 19, Mr. Gaffield responded to Mr. Buzbee and Ms. Brandfield-Harvey by inquiring about "the rationale behind the $100k demand" given that "we don’t believe that the alleged facts show that Deshaun did anything wrong…"
Mr. Buzbee responded that same morning: "We made a legit demand. You rejected it. We won’t be making another or bid against ourselves." He then added: "This is Houston, Texas. Perhaps you should find him a lawyer here so you can apprise both you and your client of the landscape here and who you are dealing with."
In a written statement, Mr. Gaffield said:
"My email exchanges with Mr. Buzbee and Ms. Brandfield-Harvey were very clear. We did not think that the facts showed that Deshaun did anything wrong with their client. We believed then – and fully believe now – that Deshaun learned a lesson about putting himself in this type of situation by interacting with people he does not know. As the emails show, we were willing to continue discussions on Deshaun’s behalf to explore ways to prevent a lawsuit and a public spectacle. But Mr. Buzbee informed us that he was unwilling to do so. We expect that this matter will be resolved in court."
RELATED: 18 massage therapists issue statements in support of Deshaun Watson