Texan Deshaun Watson is beneath investigation by Houston police
The Houston Police Department announced Friday that a police report had been filed against Houston Texan quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“As with any allegation, the Houston Police Department is currently investigating and will not provide any further comments during the investigation process,” the department wrote in a statement on social media.
When asked Friday whether the department could provide details of the nature of the complaint, a sergeant from the Houston police force said it was not at the time.
The emerging criminal investigation comes after 21 nameless women filed civil suits against Watson in the past few weeks, each accusing him of sexual misconduct or assault during separate massage sessions from March 2020. A 22nd woman made allegations similar to Sports Illustrated, but said she had not filed a lawsuit.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement Friday night that his client welcomed the investigation, calling it a “long overdue development”.
“Now we will find out the identity of at least one prosecutor,” said Hardin. “We will work fully with the Houston Police Department.”
With the filing of a police report, Watson now faces the prospect of criminal charges in addition to possible claims for damages in the 21 civil cases.
Experts have said that some of the acts described in the various lawsuits could qualify for indecent assault, an offense under Texas law. One of the allegations – Watson forced a woman to have oral sex – could potentially be classified as a criminal offense, according to Meredith Duncan, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center.
It is unclear what allegations or allegations were reported to police on Friday.
The attorney who represents all 21 plaintiffs, former Houston mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee, said in a statement that he “was not personally involved in filing Friday’s police report.” He noted, however, that more criminal complaints will be filed “in Houston and other jurisdictions and other agencies” soon.
“I will let the authorities do their job and mine will continue to do for these brave women,” said Buzbee.
Watson, 25, in his solitary public statement on the matter on March 16, when the first lawsuit was filed, broadly denied wrongdoing. In a social media post he wrote that he had always treated women with “the greatest respect”.
Hardin has since said that he “any claim that Deshaun forced a woman to engage in sexual activity is totally false”.
Most of the lawsuits filed against Watson allege that he exposed himself or touched the women with his genitals during massage sessions in various locations for a period of just over a year. Two of the complaints concern allegations of sexual assault.
The women filed the lawsuits anonymously using the pseudonym “Jane Doe,” but many are labeled as licensed massage therapists, beauticians, or business owners.
Buzbee said two weeks ago that his customers did not report the incidents to the police but planned to do so. This week, he reversed course, writing on social media that he was cautious about reporting his clients’ allegations to the Houston police because he had previously called for the resignation of a former police chief and because Hardin’s son, Thomas, works in the department.
“My clients will go elsewhere to provide our evidence to investigating authorities,” wrote Buzbee, without providing any additional information.
The allegations – and now the police investigation – come just months after Watson asked the Texans to sell him to another team. One of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, he led the league in passing last year and was named to three consecutive Pro Bowls.
In addition to civil and criminal penalties, the possibility remains that Watson could be disciplined by the NFL, which has independently investigated the matter. In response to a request for comment, League spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email that the League “continues to monitor all developments on the matter that are still under review of the Personal Conduct Policy”.
Contributor: Brent Schrotenboer
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.