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Deshaun Watson accusers speak to Houston police, NFL investigators

Deshaun Watson accusers speak to Houston police, NFL investigators
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The attorney representing a group of women who have accused Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual assault and harassment said that a number of them have met with the Houston Police Department and NFL investigators. 

The lawyer, Tony Buzbee, who is representing a total of 22 women in a lawsuit against the NFL player, told Houston’s Fox affiliate station KRIV that “eight to 10” of his clients had spoken with police as part of the department’s criminal investigation. 

Buzbee added that four of the women have also met with the NFL’s lead investigator, Lisa Friel. 

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The NFL first announced in a letter sent to Buzbee last month that it had launched its own internal investigation into the allegations, and the Houston Police Department later opened an investigation after a "complainant filed a report” with police regarding Watson. 

The football player is facing accusations from the nearly two dozen women, most of whom are massage therapists, who have recounted multiple alleged instances of sexual misconduct and assault between this year and last. 

The allegations include that Watson touched massage therapists with his penis and kissed them without their consent, with at least one woman accusing Watson of forcing her to perform oral sex during a massage session. 

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Buzbee told KRIV on Wednesday that while the local police department “has been perfect” in its investigation, he raised concerns on the treatment of the women by NFL investigators, alleging that “some of the women did not feel like they were being respected.” 

The attorney added that while there are “probably four more women who want to meet with the NFL,” he was not sure if he would let them, given his belief that they are not being treated fairly. 

When reached for comment by The Hill, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement that while he would not discuss specifics, the investigation “includes gathering information, monitoring law enforcement developments and conducting interviews with relevant people willing to participate with counsel present.” 

McCarthy added that the allegations “are very concerning,” and that Friel 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,” 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.” 

The Houston Police Department told The Hill that its investigation is still ongoing and that it had no further comment beyond its initial statement announcing the criminal probe. 

Buzbee added in his interview with KRIV that he was not looking into a settlement, and Watson attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in his own statement that there are currently no discussions about one at this time. 

However, Hardin claimed that Buzbee had approached Watson’s defense team "on numerous occasions" regarding a potential settlement. 

"We 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," Hardin said. "We want none of the participants – the plaintiffs or Mr. Watson – muzzled by a settlement agreement. Mr. Buzbee does not feel the same."

Watson has denied the allegations against him, and his attorney shortly after his accusers began coming forward released a statement with messages of support from more than a dozen massage therapists who have worked with him.

Updated at 10:57 a.m.