After a lengthy investigation sparked in part by lawsuits filed 22 women who had accused Watson of sexual assault and harassment, a grand jury declined to indict Watson by Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
A year ago, the women had filed their first suits. Watson was accused of exposing himself to them, touching their penis, and kissing them during massage sessions. Watson allegedly forced one woman to have oral sex.
After a criminal complaint had been filed, the Houston police began to investigate Watson in April 2021. The FBI was also reviewing the allegations.
Johna Stallings (chief of the division for adult sex crime and trafficking with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office) said that the grand jury heard testimony and evidence from the prosecutions over six hours Friday. She declined to reveal the possible charges that were brought to the grand jury’s attention.
Stallings stated, “We respect grand jury’s decision.”
Stallings stated that the decision ended criminal proceedings in relation to Watson, Harris County, Houston.
Watson’s lawyers claim that “some sexual activity” occurred during massage appointments, but that he never coerced anyone.
“We are pleased that the grand jury looked into the matter and came to the same conclusion as us. Rusty Hardin was Watson’s lead lawyer and stated in a statement that Deshaun Watson had not committed any crimes or is not guilty.
Tony Buzbee is the attorney representing the women. He said that the criminal case was separate from the civil case and will continue to question Watson as the lawsuits progress towards trial. Buzbee interviewed Watson earlier Friday during a deposition. This was the first time Watson has been questioned in the context of the lawsuits.
“The civil cases will continue gathering steam. We will take Mr. Watson’s testimony again Tuesday. Respect the process,” Buzbee stated.
Eight of the eight women who sued Watson had filed criminal complaints against Watson with Houston police. They were scheduled to appear before a grand jury. Two other women, who did not sue Watson, also filed complaints with the police.
Watson’s lawyers sought to defend the NFL star and condemn sexual violence against women. They called the lawsuits a money grab and claimed that all 22 of the women who sued were lying. This strategy is supported by advocates and experts.
Buzbee said that some of his clients have been subject to criticisms and even death threats.
Watson requested to be traded even before the lawsuits were brought in March 2021. Watson was kept out of the league by both the trade request and the lawsuits. The Texans expected to try and trade Watson in this offseason.
Brian McCarthy, a spokesperson for the NFL, stated that the league was “closely monitoring all developments” but that the matter is still under review by the personal conduct policy.
The lawsuits have not yet been scheduled for trial.
Watson was deposed for civil cases in Hardin’s law office, which is located approximately half a mile (0.8km) from downtown Houston’s Harris County criminal courthouse. This is where the grand jury met.
Hardin stated that Watson invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination during deposition.
Hardin stated that no lawyer in America would allow their client to testify in court with the same issues being considered by a grand jury.
Hardin stated that the criminal investigation is over and that he was happy to continue with civil case depositions.
Buzbee stated that Watson’s refusal Friday to answer his questions only strengthened the women’s claims.
Buzbee stated, “If he did not do anything wrong, why not just tell him that?”
Hardin stated that Buzbee was only trying to get Watson to answer “salacious” questions and to release transcripts to the media in an effort to make Watson look bad.
Two of Texas’ most well-known lawyers are Hardin and Buzbee. Hardin is a civil and criminal defense attorney who represented ex-pitcher Roger Clemens when he was acquitted in 2012 of charges that he lied to Congress by denying he used performance-enhancing drugs. Buzbee represented the former Texas governor. Rick Perry in an Abuse-of-Power Case was settled by Buzbee for 10 teens who claimed that Texas millionaire Stanley Marsh3 had paid them for their sexual acts.