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HOUSTON — Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents 24 women who have pending civil lawsuits against former Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson, intends to add the Texans franchise “and others” as defendants in the litigation, he announced Wednesday.
Buzbee made the announcement following deposition revelations in recent months that have alleged the Texans' head of security furnished a nondisclosure agreement for Watson, which the QB eventually employed during massage sessions that are now claimed to have been sexualized. Depositions have also shed more light on Watson’s use of a team-paid suite at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, which is alleged to have been the location of at least seven massage encounters.
In his announcement, Buzbee referenced information he has “learned” from the Houston Police Department as playing a part in the decision. On Tuesday, Buzbee stated on his Instagram account that he deposed an “investigating officer” in that police department and learned new details of the HPD’s probe. By Wednesday, Buzbee decided to add the Texans to the civil actions that have been filed.
“Our team has thoroughly vetted each case. We are considering many others," Buzbee said in a statement. "These women are the true heroes in this sordid story. What has become clear is that the Houston Texans organization and their contracting ‘massage therapy company’ facilitated Deshaun Watson’s conduct.
“In many of these cases, the Texans provided the opportunity for this conduct to occur. We believe the Texans organization was well aware of Watson’s issues, but failed to act. They knew or certainly should have known. The Houston Texans organization provided rooms for Watson at the high-end Houstonian hotel for his ‘massages’; the Texans also provided massage tables and other support for Watson’s proclivities — ostensibly to protect their ‘asset’. We intend to make sure all involved in Watson’s conduct are held accountable, in addition to and including Watson himself.”
After the allegations about the team-provided NDA and suite at the Houstonian, the Texans told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday that the franchise had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by the quarterback, who has since been traded to the Cleveland Browns.
“As we’ve previously stated, our organization was first made aware of the allegations involving Deshaun Watson through a social media post in March 2021,” Texans director of communications Omar Majzoub said in a statement. “Since then, understanding the serious nature of the allegations, we have cooperated with every investigation regarding this matter and we will continue to do so moving forward.”
Accusers' lawyer takes issue with Rusty Hardin's relationship with DA office
On Tuesday, following a detailed report of allegations against Watson by The New York Times, Buzbee responded to a portion of the report that stated his attorney, Rusty Hardin, had a “regular dialogue” with Harris County Assistant District Attorney Johna Stallings. The Harris County Prosecutor’s Office was responsible for handling the grand jury presentation that would ultimately determine whether a criminal indictment of Watson could be reached.
The Times report cited information obtained via an open records request that showed Stallings and Hardin “met at Hardin’s office, spoke over the phone 12 times and exchanged more than two dozen text messages” in a span of about eight weeks, including just prior to the prosecutor's office presenting to a grand jury the Houston Police Department’s investigative findings in its probe of Watson. The Times report also revealed that Hardin had provided a PowerPoint presentation for the grand jury in Watson’s defense. Conversely, records showed Buzbee had spoken to the prosecutor’s office only once prior to the Harris County grand jury presentation.
In March, nine criminal complaints were presented to a Harris County grand jury and one criminal complaint was presented to a Brazoria County grand jury. Both grand juries ultimately declined to indict Watson on criminal charges.
Following those grand jury decisions in March, Buzbee expressed frustration following the lack of an indictment. On Tuesday night following the revelations in the Times' report, he claimed in an Instagram post he felt “duped” over how the prosecutor’s office had interacted with Hardin. He also noted on an Instagram post that he was unaware that Hardin provided a PowerPoint presentation that was shown to the grand jury.
Going further, Buzbee noted that he took a deposition in which a Houston police investigator testified that the department office was “convinced that Watson had committed more than ten sexual crimes.” While Buzbee didn’t accuse the prosecutor’s office of impropriety in the lack of indictments, he appeared to leave a question hanging about what occurred between Hardin and Stallings.
Reached by Yahoo Sports on Wednesday, Hardin said there was nothing unusual about the communications between his office and Stallings. He said Watson’s case was the first time he’d worked across from Stallings as she led the case and the initial meeting was to introduce himself and convey that he and Watson intending to cooperate in the investigation.
“I had never met her when this case first happened, so I asked to meet her,” Hardin said. “I wanted to convey that we would be cooperating with three bodies in this: the Houston Police Department, the prosecutor’s office and the NFL, and that was going to be it. I also wanted to know if she was going to have an open mind about the facts or whether she already had her mind made up. She assured me she was going to have an open mind and I wanted to convey that we would cooperate. There is absolutely nothing unusual about what we did with our communication and there’s nothing unusual about what the prosecutor did. … In fact, if you look at the texts, a lot of them were me trying to find out when the grand jury would be going, because we were hoping to get it done by February.”
It’s unknown whether an addition of the Texans as a defendant in the civil lawsuits will alter the NFL's investigation into Watson and whether he violated the league’s personal conduct policy. The league has said it still has an “ongoing” probe into the Watson lawsuits.