Tuesday article from Jenny Frentas from The New York Times Takes an unprecedented look at the extent to which Browns attorney Deshaun Watson, Rusty Harden, has communicated with prosecutors in Harris County, Texas regarding the investigation and grand jury proceedings arising from criminal complaints against Watson. Based on information obtained from public records requests, Vrentas writes that Hardin began a “regular dialogue” with Assistant Attorney General Johna Stallings in early 2022.
According to Frentas, Stallings and Harden met “in Hardin’s office, talked on the phone 12 times and exchanged more than twenty text messages” in the two months prior to filing ten criminal complaints to two Texas grand juries.
Hardin described it as “standard practice” for criminal defense attorneys to work directly with prosecutors. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to specific questions from Vrentas about the communications.
Hardin, for both Frentas, created a slide presentation defending 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 presentations to you on behalf of our clients serve as our presentation to the grand jury,” Hardin told Stallings via email.
Attorney Tony Busby, who represents 24 women who have sued Watson in civil court — eight of whom have filed criminal complaints — released a statement Tuesday night criticizing the extent of Hardin and the attorney general’s communication.
“Just so there is no confusion,” Buzbee said on Instagram, I personally called the Harris County DA office once on behalf of the victims to make it available to my clients and any evidence I collected. My team has done that, too. They won’t even talk to us! I have no idea the assistant attorney general has been in regular contact with Deshaun Watson’s attorney via email and text. I didn’t know that the assistant prosecutor had already gone to [Rusty] Hardin’s office to discuss cases; Little did I know that Watson’s lawyer presented a PowerPoint that was to be used before the grand jury. I didn’t know, but now I know after speaking to the investigating officer under oath, that the police investigation team was convinced that Watson had committed more than a dozen sex crimes, or that the ADA had prohibited investigative officers from speaking to women who filed lawsuits but did not file criminal complaints. And what I do know is that, of the many criminal complainants in Houston, only one was asked by the ADA to appear before the grand jury, even though other victims were willing to do so. As a taxpayer and, more importantly, an advocate for these women, I feel “home” in my home city, and deceived. I think the public and all those interested have been deceived too. It makes you wonder. . . . Thank God for the civil justice system.”
Harden places a lot of importance on the grand jury’s decision not to indict Watson. The fact could very well be that Stallings knew that the level of attention Harden was devoting to the pre-grand jury process was only a glimpse of what she would have had to endure if Watson had been indicted—and if Stallings had to develop evidence beyond reasonable doubt in the cases that boil down to the case. A series of conflicting accounts of events between two people without witnesses.
Common sense suggests that she simply did not want to fight a battle she was convinced she would lose. With Watson affording Hardin and his team of lawyers, who would vigorously defend Watson in every case and drain resources and test the skills of Stallings and her staff, Stallings may have decided it wasn’t worth just spinning the wheels and eventually trying acquittal based on the fact that reasonable doubt is much easier When the evidence is limited to the testimony of a single witness, he will surely face the most frequent questioning by a skilled litigant like Hardin.
Thus, rather than exercise her vast discretion, as the saying goes, to indict a ham sandwich, Hardin appears to have made a more balanced and balanced presentation of pushing the grand jury away from nibbling on more than she was willing or able to chew.
The final result? There is no indicator. All things considered, it is arguably no surprise.