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Spurs facing lawsuit over response to allegations of sexual misconduct by Josh Primo

Attorney Tony Buzbee is representing Dr. Hillary Cauthen, a sports psychologist who worked with the Spurs.

HOUSTON — The Spurs and Josh Primo are facing a lawsuit after a former team psychologist accused Primo of exposing himself to her, and accused the team of failing to protect her as the conduct continued before they decided not to renew her contract.

"Dr. Hillary Cauthen, a licensed, credentialed clinical psychologist, lost her dream job because the Spurs organization ignored her repeated reports of indecent exposure on the part of Defendant Joshua Primo," begins the suit filed in Bexar County on Monday by attorney Tony Buzbee.

The lawsuit says that in one of Cauthen's first sessions with Primo in December of 2021, he exposed his penis to her. 

"Unfortunately, despite Dr. Cauthen's reports, such exposures happened on numerous occasions and grew progressively more extreme," the lawsuit states, adding that he exposed himself to her a total of nine times, many in private therapy sessions held in the Spurs' facilities or at a visiting arena. 

It says that Cauthen tried to get a meeting with Spurs General Manager Brian Wright in January 2022, and made it clear what the meeting was about.

"The meeting, when finally scheduled, was postponed multiple times." The meeting happened on March 21, according to the lawsuit.

>VIEW: Full text of lawsuit against Joshua Primo and the San Antonio Spurs

Buzbee said that when she got that meeting, she was assured that there would be an investigation and was asked to continue seeing Primo for sessions. He said she didn't want to lose her job and hoped something would be done, but the conduct continued.

Buzbee said that Cauthen received assurances that there would be an investigation, a write-up, and the conduct would be addressed, but she said none of that happened.

"In that meeting, she voiced her concerns about defendant Primo's conduct, again without disclosing any communications in her sessions or any other information other than the offensive conduct," the lawsuit states. "Dr. Cauthen expressed to Wright that she was uncomfortable meeting with Primo alone and she expressed feelings of confusion, embarrassment and fear. General Manager Wright promised to develop a plan with regard to Primo for the remainder of the season and said he would explore 'how to navigate' the situation in general. The two also discussed the possibility of meeting with Primo and his agent to address his concerning behavior."

"Despite Dr. Cauthen's report, nothing was done about Primo's behavior. Instead, Dr. Cauthen was called upon to meet with Primo again," the lawsuit states. "This time Dr. Cauthen met with Primo in a public setting, but unfortunately this was no deterrent. Primo again exposed his penis. Dr. Cauthen ended the session early. Defendent Primo requested at least one other session with Dr. Cauthen, she found a way to avoid the session."

The lawsuit states that Cauthen returned to work in mid-April and met with Wright again that month, expressing frustration and concern that nothing had been done.

"Rather than taking immediate and long past due action, Mr. Wright instead asked Dr. Cauthen 'what consequence' she wanted to occur," the suit claims. "Dr. Cauthen felt she was not the proper person to decide a course of action, rather that it was the responsibility of the team to address the situation and come up with a proper protocol. Wright concluded the meeting by letting her know that the organization's legal team would be in contact with her."

The suit says that in May, Cauthen met multiple times with Spurs lawyers, including the Deputy General Counsel, Chief Legal Counsel and General Counsel, who promised that a write up and an investigation would occur. It continues that a week later she requested an update from them and a copy of the write up, and inquired if Primo would be allowed to participate in team activities.

"Later that day, Dr. Cauthen met with Deputy General Counsel Brandon James and Head of Human Resources Kara Allen," the suit states. "They informed Dr. Cauthen that, despite her complaints, Primo would continue to participate in team activities. They also told her she should not feel uncomfortable because she had seen him repeatedly in the past. Rather than protect Dr. Cauthen and take immediate steps to prevent any further interaction with Primo or to discipline his behavior, the Spurs instead suggested that Dr. Cauthen work from home--if that would make her more comfortable. They also told her that they would understand if she decided not to come to the Spurs' facilities."

The lawsuit says that Cauthen felt she was being punished rather than Primo. It claims that in June when Cauthen met with James and Allen again, they told her that they wanted to hold a "facilitated discussion" with Cauthen and Primo to "because they felt it might shed some light on the reasoning behind his repeatedly exposing himself to her."

It continues to state that the team officials told Cauthen that they were considering correcting the process for the timely reporting of incidents and that coach Gregg Popovich was aware of the situation. Buzbee said during the press conference that at that point, Cauthen may have been being lied to. 

"The pair asked her, as they had in the past, whether she had legal counsel. Dr. Cauthen was then advised to refrain from having any communication with Primo until further notice."

In July, the lawsuit says, Cauthen met with the legal team once more to voice her frustration and ask for change and consequences. 

"They in turn informed her that she would not be attending the 2022 Summer League season, which was to take place July 7-17, 2022 in Las Vegas," the suit states. "They told her that they now felt she was unable to do her job in a professional manner due to what was now a lack of trust between her and the team. Again, they asked Dr. Cauthen whether she had retained legal representation and requested that she inform them immediately when she had done so."

The team declined to to renew her contract at the end of August, 2022, the suit states. In October, the Spurs exercised a team option to guarantee Primo's contract for next season.

Buzbee said that in Las Vegas while Cauthen was at home, Primo allegedly exposed himself again to another woman. Buzbee also claimed that while the team was in Minnesota Primo allegedly exposed himself again to another woman, which is what finally led the team to waive his contract. These claims only appear in the lawsuit briefly, but Buzbee's firm is asking any other victims to come forward.

"Because it has now been reported that at least two other incidents of exposure have occurred involving Primo (one apparently in Nevada and one in Minnesota), Primo was recently released from the team," Buzbee says in the lawsuit.

"This came public because someone in the Spurs leaked the reasons for Josh Primo's departure, because we never said a word," he said. "In fact, this is the first time that we've said anything about his conduct."

"At that point, after more than ten months of knowing about this conduct, after the general manager knowing about it, the general counsel, the deputy general counsel, and the head of HR, after 10 months they finally released Josh Primo," Buzbee said. "Josh Primo's conduct is obviously well outside the bounds of what is normal, what is acceptable, his conduct shocks the conscience. I would also say that the Spurs' conduct, the way they handled this matter was egregious and absolutely unreasonable."

Cauthen gave a brief statement, saying that she was a psychologist, a mother of four daughters, a woman, and a victim seeking accountability and change.

"It took the Spurs 10 months to do the right thing, and that is too long," she said.

Criminal investigation underway

Buzbee said authorities in Bexar County had reached out to him to gather more details about Cauthen's allegations. 

"There will be a criminal complaint filed for multiple cases of indecent exposure against Mr. Primo, and we expect the authorities to prosecute," he said.

“No case has been filed with the Bexar County D.A.’s Office against Joshua Primo," the office said in a statement. "If a law enforcement agency is conducting an investigation and submits a case to our office, we will conduct a review of that case and make decisions regarding prosecution at that time.”

The next day, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office confirmed that they had made contact with Cauthen and launched an investigation.

"The Bexar County Sheriff's Office has made contact with the victim involved in the Joshua Primo incident," they said. "Preliminary investigation into the allegations is underway."

Several hours after the press conference ended and the lawsuit was filed, Spurs Sports & Entertainment CEO RC Buford released a short statement, saying the organization "disagreed with the accuracy of facts, details and timeline presented."

"While we would like to share more information, we will allow the legal process to play out," Buford's statement goes on to read. "Our organization remains committed to upholding the highest standards and will continue to live by our values and culture."

Primo's attorney also released a statement, claiming that Cauthen's allegations are "either a complete fabrication, a gross embellishment or utter fantasy." 

Here's the full statement from Primo's attorney, William J. Briggs II:

"Josh Primo is a 19-year-old NBA player who has suffered a lifetime of trauma and challenges. He is not being victimized by his former team appointed sports psychologist, who is playing to ugly stereotypes and racially charged fears for her own financial benefit.

"In an act of betrayal against her young client, Dr. Cauthen, who is 40 years old, falsely claims Josh Primo exposed himself to her during the course of her numerous therapy sessions. Dr. Cauthen's allegations are either a complete fabrication, a gross embellishment or utter fantasy. Josh Primo never intentionally exposed himself to her or anyone else and was not even aware that his private parts were visible outside of his workout shorts.

"What makes the allegations even less credible is that Dr. Cauthen never informed her patient of the purported exposure. Dr. Cauthen was Mr. Primo's mental health support provider and confidant; a therapist who Mr. Primo trusted. She is much older than Mr. Primo, with many years of experience as a sports psychologist. It is baffling why she did not bother to tell her patient that his private parts were visible underneath his shorts.

"Josh Primo is at the beginning of a promising career and has been devastated by these false allegations and release by the Spurs. He is in the process seeking treatment to deal with the trauma inflicted on him by Dr. Cauthen's misleading allegations, in addition to the previous trauma he suffered as a child. He looks forward to clearing his name and to move forward with his NBA career."

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