HOUSTON — NFL star Deshaun Watson has spoken to the FBI over allegations stemming from the civil sexual misconduct litigation filed against him, according to the attorney for the Houston Texans quarterback.
The FBI reached out to the quarterback’s legal camp after it made public allegations that Watson was a target of an extortion attempt by one of the 22 women who have filed civil lawsuits against him, Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said Wednesday. Hardin made the revelation in a wide-ranging media conference that was called after Houston attorney Tony Buzbee — who represents the 22 women with civil litigation pending against Watson — claimed Tuesday that the FBI had contacted him in an effort to investigate claims made in the civil cases. Buzbee also said that the FBI has spoken to some of the women who have filed legal action against Watson.
Those claims prompted a wide-ranging response from Hardin, who was critical of Buzbee speaking publicly about a pending FBI investigation, which Hardin indicated is probing essentially all the claims made by both legal camps against each other. Hardin also shed details on other aspects of what are now a multitude of bodies investigating the claims and counterclaims made between Watson and his accusers. Among those details, Hardin confirmed that the Harris County prosecutor’s office is expected to present claims against Watson to a grand jury and that Watson has not yet interviewed with the NFL as part of its probe into the claims.
“In April, the FBI came to us and told us that they were investigating a matter as to whether one of Mr. Buzbee’s clients had committed extortion in the way they were demanding money from Deshaun or what they would do if he didn’t pay them,” Hardin said. “We talked to them. We were not the the ones who contacted them. They contacted us. … Until yesterday, I did not know that [the FBI] were also apparently — and I have no reason to doubt this now — they were apparently also investigating Mr. Buzbee’s allegations [against Watson].”
Added Hardin about the FBI’s involvement: “I’m delighted they are because we want everything to come out.”
In the totality of his remarks, Hardin provided sweeping updates in the multiple overlapping investigations into Watson, which now includes the FBI, Houston Police Department, Harris County prosecutor’s office and the NFL. Among the details:
• Hardin said Watson will continue to cooperate with all of the investigations if/when he’s asked to sit for interviews.
“I welcome the [FBI] investigation to look into all of it,” Hardin said. “We will continue to cooperate with them in any way they want. We have from the first, cooperated with the Houston Police Department, cooperated with the district attorney’s office, and will cooperate with the FBI and ultimately, down the line, we’ll cooperate with the NFL. Because we know Deshaun has done absolutely nothing wrong.”
• Hardin said he was unaware of the timeline for a grand jury investigation, but added context to the initial phases of the process, which could be to first seek written forms of discovery, followed by potential testimony. Hardin added that Watson’s legal camp expects to be made part of the process when it comes to submitting forms of evidence or information, although he didn’t expound on what those pieces of information might be or if Watson will be asked or have an opportunity to appear before a grand jury.
• As it pertains to the NFL, Hardin said Watson has not been a party to that investigation but believes the league is first waiting for the criminal process to run its course. He added that Watson will cooperate with the NFL when asked.
“The NFL regularly tries to not reach out to the defendant and his lawyers and seek evidence from them until the criminal investigation is over,” Hardin said. “Historically, they want to make sure they don’t interfere with the criminal investigation. When the criminal investigation is over, then they will do their own separate finishing up. … I have had no contact with the NFL, except to call initially and say, ‘Whenever the time is appropriate, we will fully cooperate. You let us know.’ And that’s going to be the case.”
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