Deshaun Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, contends sexual activity during a massage is not a crime

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As Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to flounder in the court of public opinion, two of his lawyers submitted to an extended radio interview on Friday morning regarding the case.

Rusty Hardin and Leah Graham appeared on Sports Radio 610 in Houston. They answered many questions about the 23 civil cases pending against Watson. Each of the lawsuits allege sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.

Hardin and Graham said plenty of things that are worthy of consideration and analysis. Near the end of the interview, Hardin had this to say about the possibility that Watson was getting massages from so many different therapists with an expectation, a hope, and/or a desire that it take a sexual turn. Indeed, Watson and his lawyers have admitted that consensus activities occurred with three of the plaintiffs who have sued him.

“I don’t know how many men are out there now that have had a massage that perhaps occasionally there was a happy ending,” Hardin said. “Maybe there’s nobody in your listening audience that that ever happened to. I do want to point out, if it has happened, it’s not a crime. OK? Unless you are paying somebody extra or so to give you some type of sexual activity, it’s not a crime. . . . Doing something or saying something or being a way that makes you uncomfortable is not a crime.”

But we’re not talking about criminal conduct at this stage of the process. The question is whether a civil violation occurred — something that isn’t a crime but that constitutes behavior that would permit the plaintiff to receive fair compensation.

An equally important question for Watson is whether his behavior violates the Personal Conduct Policy. If he arranged massages hoping for a “happy ending” and in so doing connected himself in a way that made multiple massage therapists uncomfortable, that potentially amounts to “conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person” and/or “conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL personnel.”

Hardin, Graham, and the rest of Watson’s legal team are paid to advocate for him. That’s what they’re doing. They’re not paid to say, “Look, Deshaun likes getting massages from strangers and having them possibly turn sexual. Sometimes, the massage therapist initiates it. Sometimes, he has to make the first move. Sometimes, the massage therapist may not be interested in doing that. Sometimes, the massage therapist may end up feeling uncomfortable or offended.”

Common sense suggests, based on the 23 claims pending against Watson, that he was doing precisely that. Does anyone believe these massages were therapeutic? He’s a professional athlete. He would want to find one person who consistently gives him the kind of massage that allows him to get the most out of his abilities, not a revolving door of people with varying levels of skill and experience who may or may not enhance his on-field performance — and who potentially could with one wrong move impair it.

He has every right to defend himself against these 23 cases, and to insist that he did nothing wrong before, during, and after the trials. As Hardin says more and more about the situation, however, he’s coming dangerously close to admitting that Watson indeed had a habit of seeking and/or getting “happy endings.” Should anyone be surprised that the therapists who objected to these advances, once they realized that they had rights that could be pursued in court, decided to do so?

Hardin and Graham keep trying to blame attorney Tony Buzbee for basically soliciting plaintiffs with claims against Watson. So what if he did? Turn on the TV and try to watch 20 minutes without seeing a commercial in which a lawyer or a law firm tries to solicit specific types of people with specific types of claims against specific defendants, from asbestos to talcum powder to weed eater to truck accidents to workplace injuries to any type of civil claim a person can make, and from which their lawyers will make money.

Ultimately, the 23 pending cases will go to court and be resolved by a jury unless they are settled. Ultimately, the NFL will make a decision on whether Watson violated the Personal Conduct Policy. If Watson’s defense in the Court of Roger Goodell is, “Did I get a few happy endings? Sure. Was I trying to get even more than that? You bet. But, hey, that’s not a crime,” Watson has little chance at avoiding a lengthy suspension.

81 responses to “Deshaun Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, contends sexual activity during a massage is not a crime

  1. Pretty sure it becomes a crime when there’s only one willing participant.

  2. This one Beownies…. Well, you finally topped the Tim Couch decision. What a horrible decision to bring this guy in while dirty laundry is still out there. Just classic Cleveland.

  3. What are the odds he doesn’t play again? This is getting more and more tangled by the moment. Poor Browns fans!

  4. When are we going to hear about a suspension? Next year? Two years from now? Never? Also, different topic, but wasn’t Alvin Kamara arrested inside the locker room after the Pro Bowl? Nothing happening on the suspension front for that incident either, I assume? Clown show.

  5. His lawyers are every bit as sleazy as he is! I get a massage every 2 weeks because of the work I do. I know the few women who work on me well and I also have a good friend who was a massage therapist. They are angry that this is making them look bad. They have tried for many years to move the profession beyond the idea that massage therapists are sex workers. And these cretins are just contributing to that very thought process! The friend who is no longer a therapist quit because too many pervs thought she was a prostitute.

    As a Browns fan, this whole thing disgusts and sickens me. I can’t see me rooting for this pervert.

  6. Then why try two separate times to settle for $100k each, and why stipulate all of the women had to sign ‘aggressive’ non-disclosure agreements???

  7. Went from they’re lying to it’s not a crime?

    Stick a fork in these losers.

  8. It’s a violation of the woman’s civil rights if the she doesn’t want it and she is forced.

  9. I have a relative that is close friends with an NFL player. My relative asked about massages. The team this player plays for has licensed massage therapists on the training staff. The players schedule a session and it’s done at the team facility. I am assuming that this is NOT the only team of 32 that does this. Which leads to the question – if a player can get a massage provided by the training staff with complete anonymity, why would they seek out private massages from individuals on Instagram?

  10. At this point in the process it’s getting near sunset, and Watson’s main concern should be salvaging what he can out of his career. That means getting this entire mess as far behind him as he can, and that means settling these cases, and moving on with your life, and your professional career. This isn’t about being perceived as the winner, or the loser, it’s about getting past this mess. He needs to settle, and he needs to publicly apologize to everyone involved from the alleged victims, to his former team, to his current team, and to fans everywhere. Just pay what needs to be paid to get it over with, and then you get an opportunity to move forward. Until that happens this dark cloud will continue to dominate your life. Time to put an end to the madness

  11. Watson has the wrong Lawyer, just another money-grabber wearing a suit. Go get Johnny Depp’s Lawyers. They just finished a trial!

  12. Using the ham sandwich theory I’m still trying to figure out how the grand jury declined to indict. Seems like he employed forcible touching on multiple occasions to the point one girl cried and others described how they suffered. What am I missing?

  13. Wow! Tone deaf much?! Watson may want to say to his lawyer…..”Get off my side!!”

  14. I can’t see the NFL allowing this issue to come up with every Browns game. Goodell should place Watson on the exempt list until this situation is resolved.

  15. For those who are not familiar with the law, civil suits can be broken down to a few basic elements. First, there must be some applicable duty, standard or law that must be breached. If the plaintiff can successfully state and prove such a claim, the next issue is damages. Proving a breach without proving damages provides only a moral victory at best. The plaintiff must prove an actual damage and attach a value to the damage. In the case of Deshawn Watson, it is obvious that he had a fetish for turning regular massages into sexual encounters. The question in court will be if such a quest violated a duty, standard or law and, if so, how was the victim damaged? Watson’s biggest problem will not be in the courtroom or the court of public opinion. His problem will be if the league determines that his fetish crossed league policy lines. Should the league make such a finding, the problem will become Cleveland’s problem, too. A problem that the team might need Baker Mayfield to solve.

  16. Not just Deshawn Watson who is clueless then ?? at least Rusty Hardin knows he’s getting paid…..

  17. Actually the accusation by some of these women is that he groped them and/or touched them in a sexual nature without their consent.

    Not sure if Hardin has been under a rock since 1950 but it is indeed a crime.

  18. Gross. I hope Watson gets to sit for 2+ years and the Browns continue to Browns, they deserve each other.

  19. I’m guessing these words won’t be featured in the next “Football is Family” commercial.

  20. Just because it is not a crime still doesn’t make it right. Or acceptable to his employer.

  21. arrowhead816 says:
    June 3, 2022 at 2:20 pm
    He’s right it’s not a crime…nor a violation civil misconduct.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    Is that what you tell them when they start crying?

  22. Brownies get what they deserve. Freaking Self-Imposed Factory of Sadness. Fans deserve better.

  23. Dear Rusty: You are full of bovine scatology. Might be wise to SHUT UP. Your client is in a world of hurt and you ain’t helping. BTW, Watson should get a 2-year minimum suspension. He won’t get a single game suspension, cause the NFL has become a clown show.

  24. The league needs to figure out what it’s going to do and get started with their punishment, if any, or not. There are cold case murders solved faster than this.

  25. Um, really? You pay for a “massage” and you get more. Sounds like a variation on the world’s oldest profession to me. It’s not exactly “dating.”

  26. “Watson has little chance at avoiding a lengthy suspension.”

    Thats where we are.

  27. if it wasnt a person of means and fame . would this be happening ?? in the end its all about $$$..

  28. People in today’s society just generally suck. I think we should all just adopt a dog. A dog doesn’t typically judge.

  29. So his Lawyer basically admits that he committed the acts but now they’re perfectly legal? They are both morally bankrupt.

  30. I was rooting for the Browns and their fans for the past few years… but trading for Watson has made them the least likable team in the NFL. He deserves jail cell more than a locker room.

  31. So giving a salon owner 5K cause he’s a “great guy” isn’t paying for a little somthin somthin extra? Gotcha

  32. Umm, what Peyton Manning did in college and what Watson did here is absolutely not legal.

    Exposing yourself intentionally is absolutely not legal without consent by the other adult.

    This isn’t rocket science.

  33. So they said the women were lying and now his lawyer is saying it wasn’t a crime which is him pretty much admitting something did happen?

  34. The NFL knows they can’t come out soft if bad news comes out… well, bad news keeps slowly coming out. If they choose inaction, I don’t want to see one commercial all year about whatever “social justice’ topic is the new hot thing.

  35. Thank Cleveland, this Texans fan is grateful Watson is now your problem!

    The draft picks are like really nice too!

  36. The defense would like to enter into evidence Exhibit A. The defendants lawyer’s own words. “I don’t know how many men are out there now that have had a massage that perhaps occasionally there was a happy ending,” Hardin said. “Maybe there’s nobody in your listening audience that that ever happened to. I do want to point out, if it has happened, it’s not a crime. OK? Unless you are paying somebody extra or so to give you some type of sexual activity, it’s not a crime. . . . Doing something or saying something or being a way that makes you uncomfortable is not a crime.”

  37. Odd that the grand juries and the prosecutors did not see it as a crime. Its definitely a social media outrage crime.

  38. Knucklehead commenters. If he raped them, he would have been charged. Keep up.

  39. This pattern of hiring new people for massages, often just off looks on social media, to get them in a private setting and pressure them into sexual activity is the problem and is not acceptable. If a guy with money like Watson wants buy sex there are tons of professionnals out there that wont sue you and wont yell on the street your a client.

  40. He’s already had a lengthy suspension and missed a year.

    Get over it.

  41. Texas Penal Code recently changed Solicitation of Prostitution to a felony. Not only would seeking out a therapist to pay her with intent for it to become sexual be a crime, it would be prison time. That’s assuming this was a consensual thing where both agreed Watson was paying for said activity. If, as several of the plaintiffs allege, Watson acted against their wishes, it quickly jumps into the sexual assault statutes: also felonies. Grand Jury declined to indict not because the actions weren’t criminal, but because sufficient evidence could be provided.

  42. If you pay to have your taxes done and boink the accountant after is it now a crime? How about a bartender gives you a drink, gets a tip, and meets you in the alley after their shift? Another crime? How about dating your kids teacher? Crime! Date your personal trainer. Crime is now rampant! Watson should get somewhere between 3x and 24x the suspension that Robert Kraft got.

  43. Aloha,
    Sexual harassament includes the idea that the behavior is “unwanted”. Because of that, a person’s FIRST effort to invite an adult to have some kind of relationship experience can’t be defined as “Unwanted” because the rejection only occurs after the FIRST effort. If you stop as soon as it is clear that it is unwanted, it is not harassment.
    So, keep changing masseuses and keep asking for sex. If they say no, no harm no foul. But don’t repeatedly ask the same person.
    Hope I said that all correctly.
    first sleazy is not illegal unless it is an assault itself.. Repeated sleazy after told no, is harassment.

  44. What?! I see a massage therapist for a theraputic massage session. Am I missing something here about Watson’s attempt to turn that into an opportunity to solicit sex? Hardin seeking to redefine the dynamics of massage therapy into “happy endings” massages is a pathetic attempt to somehow excuse Watsons behaviour. I feel for people in that industry now.

  45. If this isn’t sexual assault in these peoples eyes. Isn’t it more or less prostitution? I mean he paid that one lady $5000 because he’s a “good guy”. I dunno. This is all just fishy. I don’t think all these cases are consensual meetings for sex. Maybe he got it a few times and then expected it from others. Either way Watson is one creepy dude. Being creepy isn’t necessarily illegal but it is an awful look for being a franchise QB in the NFL. Personally I hope he’s suspended just for being an idiot off the field.

  46. gabbertformvp says:
    June 3, 2022 at 6:08 pm
    He’s already had a lengthy suspension and missed a year.

    Get over it.
    ——————————–
    In January 2021 Watson requested a trade. He informed the team that refused to play because he was upset about not being involved in the decision making process on the new General Manager and Head Coach. All of this was widely reported.

    This happened just months after he signed a 4-year contract extension and pocketed a $27,000,000 signing bonus. It was also several weeks before the news of sexual assault allegations became public. The Texans couldn’t trade him because of the lawsuits and he refused to play. They paid him $10M to sit on the bench in hopes of making a trade at some future point, and voila’. Along came the Cleveland Browns.

    The Browns signed a sexual predator and quitter to an unprecedented contract, and there were other teams standing in line to do the same thing.

    I repeat, Watson is a quitter, and he is a sexual predator. Enjoy the ride.

  47. gabbertformvp says:
    June 3, 2022 at 6:08 pm

    He’s already had a lengthy suspension and missed a year.

    Get over it.

    He was not suspended! He was on vacation and paid every cent of his $10.54M salary.

  48. The NFL is nothing short of hypocrites….. they couldn’t make it more obvious that the fans are only there to provide them with $$$$$…… They are all for women’s rights until they stand to lose millions then suddenly the turn a blind eye……..here’s a case of this right now.

  49. If there was a crime committed, it sounds like it might be prostitution. At least in some states.

  50. At this point, they may as well just argue to the NFL that Watson’s situation is similar to Robert Kraft and nothing happened to him.

  51. Have not heard Florio mention this yet but I don’t think any of the owners are very happy with the Browns giving 100% guarantee to Watson on his contract; even in the best of situations (top of the line QBs), those guys get 60-70% guarantee historically. Might Goodell find a win/win in his decision to suspend Watson; suspend him for a long (long) time, be praised by the court of public opinion and give the owners’ negotiating leverage against long-term contracts. Worst case for the NFL (Goodell) is the Browns doing well (conference title game, Super Bowl) any time soon with Watson and the NFL having to constantly face the press and court of public opinion. Best move by Goodell, selfishly and otherwise, suspend Watson for this year (all of 2022 season) and keep 2023 open pending resolution of civil cases.

  52. Browns have killed their team culture with this move.

    Deshaun Watson will be suspended for violating the personal conduct policy. Probably one season. Six games minimum, but I’d bet on one season. The way Watson had his contract structured, with minimal base salary this year, which he would lose if suspended, he seems to know that is likely or got advice to that effect.

    In the meantime, the Browns are hanging on to Baker Mayfield as a backup Watson if he’s suspended. Be interesting to see how that turns out.

    In the meantime, the Browns have $230 million guaranteed to Watson, and who knows how well he’ll come back after not playing for over two years. Given the compensation, this could turn into a Hershal Walker trade for the Browns.

  53. This guy keeps talking he won’t take his first snap with the Browns until 2028

  54. I think people are missing that Goodell doesn’t want to take action against Watson.

    Watson got paid all of last year, and we’re working our way to the same thing for 22.

    Goodell will hand out something ridiculously light, and punishment only because he feels pressure. I think he thought it would mostly go away and time was his friend since he wanted to do nothing.

    If he was interested in punishing Watson, it would’ve had happened September, a year ago.

  55. Insomniac says:
    June 3, 2022 at 8:12 pm
    At this point, they may as well just argue to the NFL that Watson’s situation is similar to Robert Kraft and nothing happened to him.
    ————-
    Yeah, if consent is not important, then the situations are similar.

    I am not a lawyer, but I am pretty sure consent is important.

  56. Four games, reduced to two on appeal.

    Browns clearly made the right call with Watson.

    Run!– don’t walk– to the ticket window, NOW, to bet the Brown’s Over-

  57. If Watson is suspended and the Browns tank (even more), those high draft picks will move up in order in their respective drafts. So it benefits the Texans for Watson to be suspended. Gives “tanking” a whole new meaning.

  58. Welcome to 2022 where when a grad jury says it’s no crime has been committed, the clueless public will insist there is a crime. This is our system folks. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When there is no evidence, there can be a crime but you can’t prove it. It’s fairly simple.

  59. At this point I hope the FBI looks into him for bringing women across state lines for sex.

  60. skippyx says:
    June 3, 2022 at 6:01 pm
    Odd that the grand juries and the prosecutors did not see it as a crime. Its definitely a social media outrage crime.
    —————————————–
    birds of a feather says:
    June 4, 2022 at 12:32 pm
    Welcome to 2022 where when a grad jury says it’s no crime has been committed, the clueless public will insist there is a crime. This is our system folks. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When there is no evidence, there can be a crime but you can’t prove it. It’s fairly simple.
    —————————————-

    This has been explained over and over, and yet people still keep getting this wrong. The grand jury in no way declared Watson “innocent”, they just decided that prosecuting 22 (now 24) cases based on he said/she said (and some text messages) wasn’t feasible.

    I fear for the women in the lives of the Watson apologists.

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