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The FBI Is Now Involved With Deshaun Watson

Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The lawyers on opposite sides of the civil lawsuits against Deshaun Watson finally agree on something: The FBI is now involved. 

Tony Buzbee, who represents the 22 women suing Watson for sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, told League of Justice reporter Amy Dash that FBI agents from the Houston field office visited his law office and he has since met with them multiple times. Buzbee said that the FBI agents told him they were particularly interested in the allegations against Watson because Watson reached out to the majority of the women via the internet (Watson contacted 17 of the 22 plaintiffs through Instagram direct message) and because two of the plaintiffs are from out of state. One of the plaintiffs, a Georgia resident, said in her lawsuit that Watson flew her to Houston from Atlanta for a massage, and then exposed his penis to her and touched her with it during the appointment. The League of Justice reports that the Houston division of the FBI would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into Watson. 

Buzbee’s claims made news Monday, so Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, followed up with a Tuesday press conference in which he was very careful with his words. “I don’t think they are investigating Deshaun,” Hardin said. “What they are investigating are the allegations Tony [Buzbee] has made in his lawsuits.” 

Hardin also said that the FBI told him in April that they were investigating an allegation that a plaintiff was extorting Watson, and he allowed Watson to speak to the FBI then. Hardin opened his press conference by reading several text messages and direct messages he says were sent by this plaintiff to Watson. The messages did not include dates but Hardin said they were sent after her appointment with Watson in December 2020, when the plaintiff says in her lawsuit that Watson forced her to perform oral sex. 

Last week, Fox 26’s Mark Berman reported that grand jury subpoenas are being sent out in connection to the Watson investigation, which means witnesses are now being asked to testify in front of a grand jury who will decide whether to indict Watson on criminal charges. Berman reported that the subpoenas are being sent by Johnna Stallings, the Human Trafficking Section Chief for the Harris County DA. Again, Watson’s attorney doesn’t want you to read too much into that.

“I met once with the DA’s office, just with the woman who is in charge, and she is the chief of the human trafficking division, but that doesn’t mean they are contending human trafficking is going on, that’s who she is,” Hardin said. “Mr. Buzbee made that allegation, and I’m sure the FBI will look into it.” 

In a press conference at his law firm in April, Buzbee had a human trafficking expert witness speak, and implied that trafficking would be part of this case. 

“Deshaun Watson reaches out to a woman in Atlanta, Georgia, while he’s in Houston,” Buzbee said during that press conference. “Hear what I’m saying. He reaches out to a woman via direct message on Instagram who’s located in Atlanta, Georgia. He does this while he’s in Houston. He asks her for a massage. He tells her he’ll fly her in. He buys her a plane ticket. He arranges for her Uber from the airport. He Ubers her to the Houstonian [Hotel].”

One of Buzbee’s lawsuits included the line, “Plaintiff believes Watson is in the sex trade,” and another said “Watson is in the sex trade.

Last month, Hardin told ESPN’s John Barr that 10 women have filed criminal complaints about Watson with the Houston Police Department, eight of whom he said are Buzbee’s clients. HPD would not confirm the number of complaints or investigations involving Watson. 

Sports Illustrated’s Jenny Vrentas reported last week that 10 of the 22 plaintiffs have spoken with NFL investigators, with an 11th scheduled, and that investigators have also reached out to massage therapists who are not among the plaintiffs, including those affiliated with Genuine Touch, the company contracted by the Texans. A source close to the company told Defector this week that the Genuine Touch staff have been interviewed by both the NFL and the Houston Police Department. 

Hardin said that Watson has not yet spoken with NFL investigators, because the NFL typically waits to do that until the criminal investigation is over. Hardin defended the NFL’s investigation, which was criticized by two of the plaintiffs, Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley, in the Sports Illustrated report last week. Solis and Baxley, who filed criminal complaints and have spoken to HPD, told SI that the tone of the NFL investigators in their interviews was “patronizing” and “victim-blaming.” SI also reported that the league’s investigators have not yet reached out to the anonymous woman, “Mary,” who told SI that Watson sexually harassed her during a massage appointment.

Watson reported to Texans training camp on July 25 but has been in and out of practice, and has not fully participated when he is present. He did not travel to Green Bay for the first preseason game last weekend and was listed as the team’s fourth-string quarterback. Texans head coach David Culley has avoided giving out any information about the team’s plan for Watson. 

“Deshaun is here,” Culley said Tuesday when Watson missed another practice. “Again, every day he’s here, he comes in, and he works. He does what we ask him to do and he’s here every day and he’s doing fine.”

Watson has not been made available to reporters since last season, and his only comment to the media came last Thursday, when he took issue with reporters filming him walking off the field. “Why you all always filming me every day?” he asked. “It’s the same shit.”