Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing the women accusing Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct, says several of his clients have met with the NFL, and they felt they were not respected by league investigators during the first three meetings.
Buzbee told Fox 26 in Houston on Wednesday that this led to his attending a fourth meeting between the two camps. Four of the plaintiffs met with the NFL's lead investigator, Lisa Friel, and Buzbee said that he has "probably four more women who want to meet with the NFL." However, he's not sure whether or not he'll let them due to the disrespect he felt the league showed his clients.
"The allegations are very concerning and the league immediately began investigating the matter under the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to ESPN on Thursday. "The investigation includes gathering information, monitoring law enforcement developments and conducting interviews with relevant people willing to participate with counsel present.
"Throughout her decades-long career as the chief of the sex crimes unit in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and most recently as the NFL's special counsel for investigations for the last six years, Lisa has earned a stellar reputation as a consummate professional who conducts investigations and interviews with compassion and fairness in an effort to determine the truth."
From March 16 until April 14, 23 lawsuits were filed against Watson alleging sexual harassment and sexual assault, including one from this past March. One lawsuit was dropped by a plaintiff "for now," according to court documents, "in light of privacy and security concerns."
The allegations range from refusing to cover his genitals during massages to forcing women to give him oral sex, spanning from March 2020 until March '21. He's also being investigated by the Houston Police Department, which Buzbee told Fox that eight to 10 of his clients have met with HPD.
Buzbee also told Fox that there are no plans to settle the lawsuits, which Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, echoed in a statement on Thursday, but in a different light.
Hardin said that they have "made clear all along that there would be no settlement unless the terms are made public and all participants are allowed to speak in their own defense at all times.”
"We want none of the participants—the plaintiffs or Mr. Watson—muzzled by a settlement agreement," Hardin said in the statement. "Mr. Buzbee does not feel the same."
Since the first lawsuit was filed on March 16, allegations that Buzbee approached Watson and his legal team about settling have continued to surface. Hardin said in a statement in late March that his law firm has "strong evidence" showing that at least one of the accusers attempted to blackmail Watson.
The blackmail allegedly occurred in January 2021 when an accuser requested $30,000 in exchange for her "indefinite silence about what she stated was a consensual encounter."
Hardin made it clear in his statement on Thursday that his camp has not approached Buzbee about a settlement, but that Buzbee had approached them multiple times about the possibility in the past.
Buzbee, however, doubled down on early Friday morning, denying the claim via Instagram.
"Contrary to what Mr. Rusty says, we haven't 'approached them to settle,' ever," he wrote. "When they approached us they insisted we sign this. We obviously didn't reach out to them; they begged us via the Texans to mediate."
The picture he posted is of a Mutual Non-Disclosure and Confidentiality Agreement Related to Mediation Information.
However, ESPN reviewed texts messages and a recording, and it found that a member of Buzbee's team recently approached Watson's legal team to discuss "working things out" between the Texans quarterback and the women suing him.
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