Tony Buzbee feels “duped” by news of regular contact between prosecutors and Deshaun Watson’s lawyer

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Tuesday’s article from Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times takes an unprecedented look at the extent to which Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, communicated with Harris County, Texas prosecutors regarding the investigation and eventual grand jury proceedings arising from the criminal complaints filed against Watson. Based on information obtained from public records requests, Vrentas writes that Hardin commenced a “regular dialogue” with assistant district attorney Johna Stallings in early 2022.

According to Vrentas, Stallings and Hardin “met at Hardin’s office, spoke over the phone 12 times and exchanged more than two dozen text messages” in the two months before ten criminal complaints were presented to a pair of grand juries in Texas.

Hardin called it “a standard practice” for criminal defense lawyers to work directly with prosecutors. The Harris County district attorney’s office did not respond to specific questions from Vrentas about the communications.

Hardin, per Vrentas, “created a slide presentation arguing for Watson’s innocence and gave it to Stallings along with other documents he deemed important.” Watson did not testify before the grand jury.

“We will let our submissions to you on our client’s behalf serve as our presentation to the Grand Jury,” Hardin told Stallings via email.

Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the 24 women who have sued Watson in civil court — eight of whom made criminal complaints — posted a statement on Tuesday night criticizing the extent to which Hardin and the prosecutor communicated.

“Just so there is no confusion,” Buzbee said on Instagram, “I personally contacted the Harris County DA’s office one time on behalf of the victims to make available to her my clients and any evidence I had collected. My team also did so. They wouldn’t even talk to us! I has no idea that the assistant district attorney was regularly corresponding with Deshaun Watson’s lawyer by email and text; I didn’t know that the assistant district attorney actually went to [Rusty] Hardin’s office to discuss the cases; I didn’t know that Watson’s lawyer provided a PowerPoint that was to be used before the grand jury. I didn’t know, but now know after speaking to the investigating officer under oath, that the police investigation team was convinced that Watson had committed more than ten sexual crimes, or that the ADA has prevented the investigating officers from talking to the women who had filed lawsuits but had not filed criminal complaints. And what I do know is that, of the multiple criminal complainants in Houston, only one was asked by the ADA to appear in front of the grand jury, even though other victims were standing by to do so. As a taxpayer, and more importantly as the advocate for these women, I feel ‘home towned’ in my own home town, and duped. I think the public and all interested were duped as well. Makes you wonder. . . . Thank God for the civil justice system.”

Hardin puts much weight on the decision of the two grand juries not to indict Watson. The truth very well could be that Stallings knew that the level of attention Hardin was devoting to the pre-grand jury process was just a glimpse of what she would have to endure if Watson were indicted — and if Stallings then had to develop proof beyond a reasonable doubt for cases that boil down to a series of conflicting versions of events between two people with no witnesses.

Common sense suggests she simply didn’t want to pick a fight that she was convinced she’d lose. With Watson able to afford Hardin and his team of lawyers, who would aggressively defend Watson in every case and drain the resources and test the skills of Stallings and her staff, Stallings may have decided it just wasn’t worth spinning the wheels and eventually experiencing acquittal after acquittal based on the reality that reasonable doubt is much easier to conjure when the evidence is limited to the testimony of a single witness who inevitably would face a withering cross-examination from a skilled litigator like Hardin.

And so, instead of exercising her broad discretion to, as the saying goes, indict a ham sandwich, Hardin apparently made a more measured and balanced presentation aimed at nudging the grand jury away from biting off more than she was willing or able to chew.

The end result? No indictment. All things considered, it’s arguably no surprise.

55 responses to “Tony Buzbee feels “duped” by news of regular contact between prosecutors and Deshaun Watson’s lawyer

  1. Money talks. This is just embarrassing at this point. If I was a Browns fan, I’d be pretty upset. If I was one of these women’s family members, I’d be hurt. Justice truly is blind in this case.

  2. So, the prosecutor evaluated the defense that Hardin was going to use and decided it would be too difficult to win?

  3. ……BOOM!……… All for Multiple 1st round draft picks & 240…..Guaranteed!….smh….

  4. When is it appropriate for the DA’s office to have meetings (regular or other) with a 3rd party attorney with a vested interest in a criminal proceeding?

  5. It was obvious, they hid behind the secrecy of the Grand Jury system and essentially recommended to the GJ not to indict.

    Grand Juries don’t convict people. They have a very low standard for that reason.

  6. Not taking sides, but this is a very effective discussion of the realities of prosecuting a 50-50 case when there is no egregious harm to society at large, when the defense has unlimited resources and the prosecutors have many competing priorities and limited resources. Shame on Buzbee for not recognizing this. Rusty Hardin is a prominent and successful defense attorney for a reason.

  7. Sounds like good attorney work by Watson’s side. Isn’t that what you pay them for?

  8. Hmmm. Wonder if the Feds could step in now with some sort of civil rights action like they do in other situations where they think the locals haven’t done their jobs.

  9. To me, this isn’t even about Mr Watson anymore. This is ALL about slimeball Jimmy Haslam. He should have been thrown outta the NFL years ago with his blatant embezzlement. He’s crooked to say the very least. But for him and his wife who went along, that’s the story. I’m telling you, Jimmy is ten times worse then Snyder. Making Watson the face of your franchise???? Just sickening.

  10. I have already grown tired of the constant force feeding of Watson. Tell me something positive going on in the league.

  11. You gotta figure if average Joe were accused of this the prosecutor wouldn’t be colluding with HIS lawyer. Money and fame shouldn’t be the main factor to exoneration.

  12. I think the DA make a strategic mistake attempting to indict all of those 22 cases together. I agree that not all of the 22 rise to the beyond a reasonable doubt standard, but a few of the cases might.

  13. When it comes to being duped I’d think the Browns win that contest over Buzbee..

  14. Tony Buzbee wants an inquisition. Watson is innocent until indicted, tried, and proven guilty. Mr. Buzbee’s attempts to interfere with the grand jury process for his own benefit is pretty low. The DA handled this exactly right.

  15. Prosecutors generally prefer plea deals and open-and-shut cases against defendants with limited financial means. In the Deshaun Watson case, the accused is a famous multimillionaire. Furthermore, Janice and Cal McNair are billionaires who didn’t want Watson indicted–If he had been indicted on felony charges, the Houston Texans would never have been able to trade him. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that prosecutors presented a tiny fraction of the available evidence to grand jurors, and that those grand jury proceedings were only intended to provide cover for non-prosecution. The lack of indictments say nothing about the amount or quality of evidence in these cases.

  16. A normal person would have been prosecuted. This 24th woman could be a problem there. And the Texans seem to be directly involved, we already know they lied about being ignorant about the whole thing until 2021, they gave him NDS’s for girls to sign in 2020.

  17. Prosecutors and defendants communicate the time, its their job. Also, Buzzbee is repping a civil suit not the criminal trial.

  18. Nothing illegal or immoral here. A lawyer is supposed to represent their client.

  19. They need to have an independent investigation into and publicly disclose what went on between Stallings and Hardin and, in all likelihood, have a different district attorney without any conflicts of interest bring this case back to a grand jury.

    As someone fairly familiar with grand juries, I cannot emphasize enough how important the DA is in helping to dictate what evidence a grand jury gets to see and what evidence is shielded from them (and just to clarify, I’m not suggesting DA’s usually act with corrupt intentions when convening grand juries but it certainly looks suspicious at the very least here).

  20. When this saga is finally over, we are going to know what we knew on day 1 – D-Wat is a creep, but not a criminal. He’s gross, and why the Browns want him as the face of the franchise is beyond me. But, these cases can not be proven criminally and Buzbee’s goal from the beginning was to force a settlement.

  21. I’m sure some front office fools in Cleveland feel duped. 66 different girls in 17 months. Non-disclosure agreements. What a disaster.

  22. What I do not like about this entire thing is Buzbee trying this case on his social media accounts. Why is that?? Wanting the public to know who he is and get his book deal???

  23. Speaking from experience, defense lawyer are continually in contact with prosecutors, certainly on high profile cases. If and when there is a criminal indictment the prosecutors will deal with the victims. That’s the way it goes and Buzbee knows this but still wants to keep his name and case on center stage. This all about future clients and money.

  24. So instead of paying off his victims, Watson paid the ADA instead. Interesting strategy.

  25. In other words, a combination of the fix being in, a DA who was intimidated by a defense attorney, and Texas.

  26. Well Tony, as with the rest of this case seems like they did a better job than you. This gets caught up in where there’s smoke there’s fire. Fortunately the law requires evidence.

  27. It seems strange that Buzbee is complaining about this. Of course a defense lawyer and prosecutor are going to have discussions both before presentation to a grand jury or before a trial. Hardin has a duty to Watson to zealously represent him, and trying to head off an indictment is certainly part of that. It’s not clear what was in the powerpoint but it seems to have been persuasive to the grand jury or prosecutor. There was nothing stopping Buzbee from communicating with the prosecutor either, especially since he has multiple clients who filed criminal complaints. But he’s a contingency fee lawyer who cares more about the civil case than any criminal case.

  28. Rusty Hardin didn’t do anything wrong trying to get a good result for his client, but considering how low the bar is for an indictment it makes more sense now, hearing about all of the contact between the prosecutor and Hardin. Clearly they did not want the grand jury to indict, whether that’s because it is such a bad case or because something improper happened is another question.

  29. Hardin zealously representing his client. Seems what he was hired to do.

    If Buzbee was that concerned, perhaps he should have been pounding his fist for his vision of justice for the victims. Seems he might have more of an interest in the civil $ide though.

  30. Persons being investigated by a Grand Jury in Texas are allowed to present information in their defense.

    The defendant’s attorney prepares the information and presents it to the prosecutor. The prosecutor informs the Grand Jury that there is an information packet available. The Grand Jury decides whether they want to review the information. Normally they do. Sometimes it is helpful, sometimes it is not.

    Did Hardin and the prosecutor need multiple emails and text messages to make this happen? Could they have been discussing what the prosecutor would or would not allow Hardin to include?

    Who knows, but what I do know is that the info packet itself is a routine matter and it happens all the time. Tony Buzbee knows this as well.

  31. Complete clown show by this guy. He has aggressively tried to sway public opinion & made numerous accusations. However, how can we trust him and not the defense & jury, when the other side has chosen to be silent and want to discuss only in the court of law?

  32. Lol. We all want to see Watson held accountable any way it can happen, so the accurate answers to this actually got downvoted because its not what folks wish to hear.

  33. Seems fairly obvious that Watson’s attorney and the prosecutor conspired to pervert justice. Seems to me a lot more than Watson needs to be investigated here.

  34. people are mad at buzzbee for using the court of public opinion via social media, really? mad at that but not mad at hardin for really stretching the scope of how the defense interacts with the DA, if the field isnt level then you hae to everything in your power to level it, and that is what buzzbee is doing. biggest shame is that we are still discussing this and watson hasnt been suspended for life from the nfl. he is a predator, who do to his ability to throw a football has been allowed to develope these predatory behaviors and has most likely been doing it and having it covered up for some time(allegedly doing and having it covered up for some time)

  35. Oops, sounds like one lawyer was doing his job and one was not. : o !!!

  36. Godzilla says:
    June 8, 2022 at 5:24 am
    Prosecutors and defendants communicate the time, its their job. Also, Buzzbee is repping a civil suit not the criminal trial.

    Grand juries do not review evidence for civil cases. They decide if there is enough evidence to send a case for a criminal trial. It seems as though something sketchy went on between the ADA and Hardin as 2 grand juries let Watson off the hook. I don’t believe that what went on here was “standard practice”.

  37. Prosecutors usually only go after cases that they know they can win. In this case, there is no direct evidence. It’s he said, she said situation. Sure, when that many women all say the same things, it seems like an open and shut case, but in court, not so much.

    Having said that, the prosecutors are looking the other way when they should prosecute…..even if they aren’t sure that they can win.

  38. Wow … either this forum has a lot of accomplished unemployed lawyers or fans of other teams just trying to stir the pot & question the American justice system. Probably the fans of teams that lost out to the Browns. 😊

    If anyone needs to be questioned aggressively , it’s this guy (Buzbee), now that it is clear that he was not doing an effective job in court and is resorting to cheap tactics.

  39. I’ve been a prosecutor, in Canada, for 23 years. Any time a trial is approaching, there are a flood of calls between the prosecution and defence. We get each others cell phones, stuff comes up on weekends. We talk about which witnesses we’ll be calling, whether we want to fight about a piece of evidence being admissible or whether the defence will admit that it is. We talk about the breaches of the accused’s rights and whether we’ll have a hearing about it. Sometimes they want me to call a witness rather than having to call them themselves, which I will often do.

    There are all kinds of things to talk about in terms of case management. It’s completely normal.

  40. He must be talking to Godel as well the way the NFL is dragging their feet.

  41. I’ve been a prosecutor, in Canada, for 23 years.


    I don’t know how it works in Canada… And you’re talking about the trial stages.

    As someone who works in criminal law in America, it is highly unusual for a defense lawyer to have a lot of contact with a prosecutor during the early stages – like the investigation and grand jury stages. It’s even more unheard of to supply the prosecutor with a power point to use in front of a grand jury.

  42. As a practicing attorney, albeit civil, it is acknowledged that prosecutors remain in contact with both parties, and usually on an ex parte basis. However, the expectation is that such contact will be fair and even on both sides without appearance or practice of favoritism. That doesn’t sound like the case here which is Buzbee’s beef.

  43. Sounds like possible prosecutorial misconduct. It’d be interesting to see how many of Hardin’s clients never make it to court and if the DA’s office and Hardin’s office are in the same social circles.

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