The grand jury found 9 no bills, meaning Watson will not face any criminal charges.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement:
“After a Harris County grand jury had presented all evidence and had an opportunity to hear from all witnesses, the grand jurors declined to indict Deshaun Watson. Grand jury proceedings are secret by law, therefore no information related to their investigation can be disclosed.”
“We are delighted that the grand jury has thoroughly considered the case and reached the same conclusion as us. Deshaun Watson has committed no crime and is not guilty of any offence. Now that the criminal investigations are completed, we are happy to move forward with the civil case depositions. We will vigorously defend these cases with every ounce we have. There have been no crimes here, but there is a plaintiffs attorney who produces negative press and produces his clients hoping for a payday.These cases were the product of a lawyer maximizing his own personal publicity at the expense of others, including his own clients.It’s time to let Deshaun move on,” said Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lead attorney.
Watson spoke alongside Hardin for the first time since the sexual harassment allegations arose.
“It’s definitely a very emotional moment for me. I know we’re far from done dealing with what we have to deal with (legally),” Watson said. “I thank my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for speaking the truth. I thank everyone involved in this. See and hear both sides, and that’s what my point and my team wanted to do . It’s having a fair slate of us telling our side of the story and letting the conclusion come down to what happened today (which the grand jury decided).”
Watson continued to say he wanted to rebuild his name and rebuild his “appearance in the community”.
“Also, I’m ready to get back on the pitch. We’ve prepared for that and ready to go,” Watson said. “I will continue to move forward and rebuild my name to what it was, if not better.”
The start of grand jury work came the same day lawyers for 22 women were due to begin questioning Watson over depositions that were part of the lawsuits they filed against him last year.
The women allege in their lawsuits that Watson exposed himself, touched them with his penis or kissed them against their will during massage appointments. A woman alleged that Watson forced her to perform oral sex.
Hardin said he welcomed the grand jury and hoped it would decline to indict the NFL star. Watson and his attorneys have denied the charges. His lawyers said “sexual activity” had occurred during some massage appointments, but he never coerced anyone.
The first lawsuit against Watson was filed last March. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office was presenting evidence and testimony to the grand jury from a Houston police investigation that began in April 2021 after a criminal complaint was filed. The FBI had also looked into the allegations against Watson.
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Ten women have filed criminal complaints against Watson with the police, according to Tony Buzbee, the lead attorney for the 22 women who sued. Eight of those 10 women are represented by Buzbee and they were subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury on Friday, he said.
“They’ll be happy to be there,” Buzbee said.
At the same time the grand jury was meeting at the Harris County Criminal Courthouse in downtown Houston, Buzbee led Watson’s deposition about a half mile away at the offices of Hardin’s law firm.
Hardin said Watson will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Watson will not answer questions during a deposition until the grand jury makes a decision, Hardin said.
Buzbee’s interrogation of Watson was expected to last 45 to 50 hours over several days.
Most of the women who sued have already been filed by Watson’s attorneys. No civil trial date has been set for the prosecution.
“My view is that if you’ve done nothing wrong and you’re innocent, you shouldn’t be afraid to incriminate yourself,” Buzbee said. “My clients did not plead the Fifth. Instead, they bravely testified under oath what Deshaun Watson did to them.”
Watson’s attorneys have sought to balance their defense of the NFL star while simultaneously condemning sexual violence against women.
They called the lawsuit against him a ‘money grab’ and claimed the 22 women who sued are lying – a strategy some experts and advocates say relies on long-used tropes designed to downplay such charges. Buzbee said some of his clients have faced criticism and even death threats.
Even before the lawsuits were first filed, Watson had asked to be traded. The trade request and lawsuit kept Watson out all last season.
The Texans were expected to try to trade Watson this offseason.
An NFL spokesperson told ABC13, “We have been closely monitoring all developments in this matter which remains under review under the Personal Conduct Policy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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