Tuesday’s article by Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times takes an unprecedented look at the extent to which Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin has been communicating with Harris County, Texas prosecutors about the investigation and eventual grand jury trial resulting from the case against Watson filed criminal charges. Based on information from public records, Vrentas writes that Hardin began a “regular dialogue” with Assistant District Attorney Johna Stallings in early 2022.
According to Vrentas, Stallings and Hardin “met in Hardin’s office, spoke on the phone 12 times and exchanged more than two dozen text messages” in the two months before two Texas grand juries presented ten criminal charges.
Hardin called it “standard practice” for criminal defense attorneys to work directly with prosecutors. The Harris County Attorney’s Office did not respond to specific questions from Vrentas about the notices.
Hardin, according to Vrentas, “created a slide presentation arguing Watson’s innocence and gave it to Stallings, along with other documents he considered important.” Watson did not testify before the grand jury.
“We will have our submissions to you on behalf of our client as our presentation to the grand jury,” Hardin Stallings shared via email.
Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the 24 women who have sued Watson in civil courts — eight of whom have filed criminal charges — released a statement Tuesday night criticizing the extent to which Hardin and the prosecutor communicated.
“Just so there’s no confusion,” Buzbee said on Instagram, “I personally reached out to the Harris County Attorney’s Office on behalf of the victims once, making available my clients and all the evidence I had gathered.” place. My team did too. They wouldn’t even talk to us! I have no idea that the Assistant District Attorney corresponded regularly via email and text messages with Deshaun Watson’s attorney; I didn’t know the assistant district attorney actually went there [Rusty] Hardin’s office to discuss the cases; Little did I know that Watson’s attorney provided a powerpoint to be used before the grand jury. I didn’t know, but now, after speaking under oath with the investigating officer, I know that the police investigative team was convinced that Watson had committed more than ten sex crimes, or that the ADA prevented the investigating officers from dealing with the Talking to women who did this had filed lawsuits but no criminal charges. And what I do know is that of the multiple criminal prosecutors in Houston, only one was asked by the ADA to appear before the grand jury, even though other victims stood by to do so. As a taxpayer and, more importantly, as an advocate for these women, I feel “at home” and duped in my own hometown. I think the public and anyone interested has been deceived as well. leaves you amazed. . . . Thank God for the civil justice system.”
Hardin places great importance on the grand juries’ decision not to indict Watson. The truth could very well be that Stallings knew that the attention Hardin gave to the pre-grand jury trial was just a glimpse of what she would have to endure if Watson were indicted — and if Stallings then had evidence would need to develop beyond reasonable doubt for cases that amount to a series of conflicting versions of events between two people without witnesses.
Common sense suggests that she just didn’t want to start a fight she was convinced she was going to lose. Because Watson could afford Hardin and his team of attorneys, who would aggressively defend Watson in any event and exhaust resources and test the skills of Stallings and her associates, Stallings may have decided it just wasn’t worth spinning the wheels and finally to experience acquittal after acquittal, based on the fact that reasonable doubt is far easier to cast when the evidence is limited to the testimony of a single witness who would inevitably face scathing cross-examination by a seasoned trial attorney like Hardin.
Rather than exercise her broad discretion to, as the saying goes, indict a ham sandwich, Hardin apparently gave a more measured and balanced presentation aimed at keeping the grand jury from biting off more than she was willing or able to chew.
The final result? No charge. All in all, it’s probably no surprise.