The Houston Police Department announced Friday that a police report has been filed against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“As with any allegation, the Houston Police Department is now conducting an investigation and will not comment further during the investigative process,” the department wrote in a statement on social media.
Asked Friday if they could provide details of the nature of the complaint, a sergeant with Houston police said not at this time.
The criminal investigation comes after 21 unnamed women filed civil lawsuits against Watson in recent weeks, each accusing him of sexual misconduct or assault during separate massage sessions dating back to March 2020. A 22nd woman came forward with similar allegations to Sports Illustrated but said she had not filed a lawsuit.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement Friday evening that his client welcomed the police investigation, calling it a “long overdue development.”
“Now we will learn the identity of at least one accuser,” Hardin said. “We will fully cooperate with the Houston Police Department.”
The Houston Police Department announced that a police report has been filed against Deshaun Watson. (Photo: Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports)
With the filing of a police report, Watson is now facing the prospect of a criminal charge in addition to possible compensatory damages in the 21 civil cases.
Experts have said some of acts outlined in the various lawsuits could meet the criteria for indecent assault, a misdemeanor under Texas law. One of the allegations – that Watson forced a woman to perform oral sex – could possibly be classified as a felony, according to Meredith Duncan, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center.
It is unclear which allegation or allegations were reported to police Friday.
Watson, 25, might also face discipline from the NFL, which has been investigating the matter independently for more than two weeks.
“We are continuing to monitor all developments in the matter which remains under review of the Personal Conduct Policy,” league spokesperson Brian McCarthy wrote in an email Friday, after the announcement from police.
Watson broadly denied wrongdoing in his lone public statement on the matter March 16. He wrote in a social media post that he has always treated women with “utmost respect.”
Hardin, meanwhile, has previously said that he believes “any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false.”
Most of the lawsuits filed against Watson allege that he exposed himself or touched the women with his genitals during massage sessions at various locations over the span over a little more than a year. Two of the complaints include claims of sexual assault.
The women filed the lawsuits anonymously, using the pseudonym “Jane Doe,” but many are described as licensed massage therapists, estheticians or business owners.
All 21 of the women are represented by former Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who initially said his clients planned to provide information and evidence to authorities, including Houston police and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, before abruptly reversing course this week.
Buzbee wrote on social media Tuesday that he was wary of taking his clients’ accusations to 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 investigative authorities,” Buzbee wrote, without providing any additional information.
Buzbee did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday.
The allegations – and, now, police investigation – come just months after Watson asked the Texans to trade him to another team. One of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL, he led the league in passing yards last year and has been named to three consecutive Pro Bowls.
Contributing: Brent Schrotenboer
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.