Texans star Watson facing police probe over assault claims

Houston (AFP) –


A criminal investigation into Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was launched by police in Texas on Friday as the NFL star battles allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior from more than 20 women.

A brief statement from the Houston Police Department confirmed that Watson was now being investigated for an unspecified offense following the filing of a formal complaint against the Texans star.

"Today a complainant filed a report with the Houston Police Department concerning Deshaun Watson," the Houston police statement said.

"As with any allegation, the Houston Police Department is now conducting an investigation and will not comment further during the investigative process."

The development deepens the legal problems faced by Watson, who has now been accused of assault or sexual misconduct by 21 women in civil lawsuits filed in Harris County District Court in Texas.

Watson, 25, one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL and highly coveted this year as he agitates for a move away from the Texans is accused of a range of offenses against female massage therapists.

Two more women filed civil cases against Watson on Wednesday, taking the number of his accusers to 21.

One of the latest lawsuits accuses Watson of making "obscene sexual gestures" and exposing himself before groping his victim and forcing her to perform a sex act on him.

Watson has strongly denied wrongdoing, saying in an initial statement last month that one of his accusers was attempting to extort money from him.

"I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect," Watson said.

Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, said last week his investigators had found "strong evidence" indicating one accuser's story was false, adding it "calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases as well."

Hardin on Friday said the quarterback's legal team welcomed the launch of a police investigation, describing it as "long overdue."

"Now we will learn the identity of at least one accuser," Hardin said. "We will fully cooperate with the Houston Police Department."

Earlier this week, Watson's legal team released statements from 18 massage therapists who had treated the quarterback more than 130 times over the past five years and had not seen any improper behavior.

"These women say they are deeply troubled by the accusations made against Deshaun and that these claims are wholly inconsistent with their experiences with him and who they believe him to be," a statement said.

"All of them stated that Deshaun never made them feel uncomfortable or demanded anything outside the scope of a professional massage."