Last week, Tony Buzbee, the attorney for 24 women suing Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for sexual misconduct, announced that 20 of those women would be settling their civil lawsuits. On Monday, one of the four remaining plaintiffs filed another civil lawsuit— this one against the Houston Texans.
The plaintiff, Toi Garner, alleges that the Texans knew about Watson’s “troubling” behavior in massage therapy appointments and that they enabled that behavior by providing him with a room at a hotel, a massage table that he used during sessions away from the team facility, and a non-disclosure agreement to silence his massage providers. It also alleges the Texans aided Watson by getting a “potentially explosive’ Instagram post about him taken down.
Since the first civil lawsuit was filed against Watson last March, it’s remained an open—and important—question: What did the Texans know about all of this? Little details have trickled out since, many of them in a story earlier this month, where Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times first reported that the room Watson used at the Houstonian hotel for massage appointments (the scene of two of the civil lawsuits and two of the complaints to police) was arranged for him by the Texans, and that the team’s director of security provided Watson with an NDA to give to women he hired. This lawsuit, the first filed against the Texans, alleges that the Texans had real information about Watson’s behavior before anything was public.
Per the lawsuit, Texans head athletic trainer Roland Ramirez relayed a conversion with Joni Honn, the owner of Genuine Touch, the massage therapy company that the Texans work with. Ramirez said Honn called him once and said that she was concerned because “she had heard that Deshaun was reaching out to other massage therapists on social media and she was concerned about them continuing to work on Deshaun[…]”
The lawsuit alleges that Honn “told police she was angry that Watson was reaching out to random strangers on Instagram and she expressed her anger to at least two individuals with the Texans, including Ramirez. It was her belief that Watson was potentially exposing himself to the COVID virus, or that he would eventually be sued if he continued to reach out to random strangers for private massages.”
The lawsuit cites Ramirez telling HPD that Watson asked to borrow a massage table from the team, and that he felt that was “strange” and encouraged Watson to use the Texans staff for his bodywork.
The lawsuit also says that Ramirez told HPD that he and Texans executive vice president Jack Easterby helped set up an account for Watson at the Houstonian. The lawsuit says Watson confirmed that the Texans arranged his membership there (as previously reported by the NYT), and that it was not under his own name. The lawsuit also says that Ramirez “received several complaints from the general manager at the Houstonian regarding Watson and the number of women coming to Watson’s room there.”
The lawsuit includes an excerpt from Houston police detective Kamesha Baker’s deposition. Baker investigated the criminal complaints against Watson, and interviewed Honn, who told her that Watson had a “towel trick” that he tried with two of her employees.
The lawsuit says that “multiple individuals from Genuine Touch were aware that, during at least one massage session, Watson had, as described, ‘humped the table’ and ‘left a wet spot.'” The lawsuit does not indicate the source of those quotes from Genuine Touch employees. The lawsuit says that “Genuine Touch was also aware that at least one of its therapists had, and another was having, sexual relations with Watson during massage sessions.”
Last spring, Defector spoke to Honn, and she said Watson never received a massage from her or Genuine Touch employees at the Texans’ facility, because he was always too busy. She said her employees only worked on him at his home or at their office and that none of her employees had ever had an issue with him. When Defector called back last August, Honn said she couldn’t talk about it anymore and hung up.
The lawsuit also includes an excerpt from an interview with Det. Baker where she discusses the team’s role in removing a November 2020 Instagram post by Nia Smith, the 23rd woman to sue Watson. In the post, Smith included text messages from Watson, and a CashApp receipt for a massage. She wrote, “I could really expose you bitch.”
“Brent Nacarra got it removed from Instagram,” Baker said. “He is the security for the Texans. I interviewed him and he told me that. … He said based on what she said and that it had Mr. Watson’s personal information out there in the world. And so he was able to get it scrubbed from the internet.”
The lawsuit doesn’t specify further how Naccara, the team’s director of security, got Smith’s post taken down. The lawsuit also includes an excerpt from Watson’s deposition (as previously reported by the New York Times) where the quarterback says that after Smith’s Instagram post, Nacarra gave him an NDA to protect him in future interactions with massage therapists.
Baker, the HPD detective, said Toi Garner’s story stood out to her. “That was a really powerful and compelling account, not to mention they knew each other prior to,” she said in an excerpt from her deposition included in Garner’s lawsuit against the Texans. “And again, she had all evidence to support it.”
Garner’s lawsuit against Watson mentions two text messages from Watson that he sent after sessions where she alleges sexual misconduct. She also says in her lawsuit that she confided in a friend afterwards.
Garner’s lawsuit includes screenshots of Watson’s Instagram DMs and texts, trying to book her for an appointment the same day. She says that Watson initially direct messaged her on Instagram to ask about booking a massage. At the time, she says she was a massage therapy student and didn’t have her license, but she felt comfortable with him because she had met him previously through mutual friends. She says that Watson drove 35 minutes to her mother’s house for the session, because she wasn’t comfortable meeting him at a hotel. She says he presented her with an NDA to sign before their first session, brought his own towel to use and then exposed his penis to her during the massage when the towel slipped off. Her lawsuit says he texted her after the first session saying, “Hope that wasn’t bad.” During the second session, she says Watson exposed himself to her again, and this time, touched her hand with his penis and ejaculated onto her arm. Per her lawsuit, after that appointment, which was the last time she saw Watson, Watson texted her saying, “I see you are getting comfortable with certain techniques and areas.” The lawsuit also says she told the whole story to a friend of hers who played in the NFL.
Garner also filed a criminal complaint against Watson. A grand jury in Brazoria County, Texas declined to indict.
When the Texans traded Watson to Cleveland in March and received a haul of draft picks, they might have thought they’d escaped this crisis. With 20 of the 24 cases on their way to settling, and the NFL meeting with an independent arbitrator this week who will decide Watson’s punishment, the league, the Browns, and Watson himself might have thought this was all finally nearing an end.
But Garner’s second lawsuit shows that this isn’t over, and especially not for the Texans.