The first two civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson against Houston-area female massage therapists were filed in March 2020. In the 27 months since then, as at least half-a-dozen teams tried to trade for Watson, and the NFL conducted a lengthy investigation to determine if they player should be suspended, the answer to this question boggles the mind:
Has the NFL or any NFL team, specifically the Cleveland Browns which traded for Watson, at any time reached out to the Harris County District Attorney’s office to ask what it knows after the office’s lengthy investigation of its own?
‘Not that I’m aware of,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.
Ogg was speaking recently on the Mike Meltser Sports and Law podcast and answered questions about the Watson case and her office’s role in the saga that has captured a lot of time and attention the past two-plus years.
Ogg has been the D.A. in Harris County since 2017 and her office presented to a grand jury 10 criminal complaints brought by massage therapists who claimed Watson engaged in sexual misconduct and even abuse.
The grand jury returned a “no bill” verdict meaning it declined to indict Watson criminally. That along with a similar verdict from a separate Texas grand jury has been a defense shield even as 24 plaintiffs have brought more allegations against Watson in civil litigation.
Ogg believes the outcome of the civil trial is what will ultimately determine whether justice is done.
“Remember, a grand jury no bill is not an exoneration,” Ogg said. “People, even when they clear the criminal justice system, often face accountability and repercussions in other parts of our legal system.
“And so I think to determine whether justice was done in this case you’re going to have to wait and see how it all comes out on the civil side of things and then through the NFL on the administrative side of things. And people will then determine whether that’s justice.”
Ogg answered questions about how her office handled the Watson investigation, a topic addressed in a recent New York Times article.
Ogg confirmed her communications with plaintiff attorney Tony Buzbee has been rare while the sex crimes prosecutor in her office has been more often in touch with Watson’s attorneys, as the New York Times reported.
But Ogg pushed back against the notion that 12 phone calls and two dozen text messages between Watson attorney Rusty Hardin and the sex crimes prosecutor raises eyebrows.
“Totally normal,” Ogg said. “We contact defense lawyers, they contact us. A communication is far different than collaborating or working together to achieve an outcome. That just didn’t happen. It’s not ethical and it’s not what we do and it’s not what happened in this case.
“I think there was a lot of artistic liberty taken by the writer in that case, who made a presumption, which we’re not allowed to do, that anytime somebody shares a text or phone call that they’re colluding.”
Ogg did say that early on “Buzbee sent me a one-line text” alerting her of the allegations.
“And I sent him a question back, ‘Have your clients reported this to the police?’ ” Ogg said. “At that time, after that, 10 of the plaintiffs made reports.”
Buzbee on his Instagram said he made available to the D.A. his clients and any evidence he had collected but, “They wouldn’t even talk to us!”
What is Ogg’s reaction?
“The suggestion he offered evidence and witnesses is, I don’t know what he offered,” Ogg said changing course mid-sentence. “What I can tell you is that it’s routine procedure for us to contact complainants directly. And if they’ve retained a lawyer, and sometimes individual complainants do that, then while we may contact the attorney just to say we’re contacting your client, often we don’t.
“Our process is completely separate from the civil claim.”
Ogg shared what details she felt she could about the grand jury hearing, which is to say not much.
“We had all 10 complainants subpoenaed. Six were present. And of course the defense and target, Mr. Watson, was notified,” Ogg said.
Ogg would not disclose whether all six complainants present were heard by the grand jury and indeed there are multiple reports that only two were heard.
“I can never tell you what they heard,” Ogg said. “They appeared in the waiting room and who went into the grand jury, who was present, what they testified about, all of that is not disclosable by the state.
“I can tell you we pulled our evidence together, it’s there for them, we present everything and they make a decision.”
Ogg said in this case prosecutors looked at “over 100,000 pages of documents related to Instagram, payments methods, all of that, to ascertain what really happened. And to present that to the grand jury and let them make that decision.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero