HOUSTON – A grand jury in Brazoria County met Thursday and listened to evidence related to one criminal complaint filed to Houston police by one of the 22 massage therapists, who have accused Watson of harassing or assaulting them during sessions.
The decision followed a similar one by a Harris County grand jury, which declined to indict Watson on March 11, triggering a pursuit by the Browns and several other teams for one of the league’s top QBs.
“Accordingly, this matter is closed,” Brazoria County District Attorney Tom Selleck said in a statement.
Only hours earlier, Watson, wearing an orange throwback Browns jacket, arrived at the team’s headquarters in Berea, Ohio. His trip to Ohio had been delayed so Watson could give depositions Tuesday and Wednesday in Houston in some of the civil lawsuits.
The former Houston Texans quarterback was traded to the Cleveland Browns last week. Fox 8 WJW in Cleveland first reported the grand jury was considering one last criminal charge against Watson early Thursday.
Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the 22 women who allege sexual misconduct during massage appointments, said in early March that the criminal case is separate from the civil cases and he will continue the process of questioning Watson as the civil lawsuits move toward trial.
Buzbee released the following statement in response to the jury’s decision:
“I have been traveling today but have learned of the Brazoria County Grand Jury’s decision regarding the one complaint they considered. This complaint was made some time ago to the Houston Police Department along with the others previously considered by Harris County, but, because the alleged conduct occurred in Brazoria County, the complaint was referred to that jurisdiction. As I have said, the civil process and the criminal process are considerably different—in criminal court a district attorney must prove conduct beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil court, the standard is much lower; more likely than not. Our team has had no involvement in the criminal process; we respect whatever outcome results there. We understand there are at times parallel proceedings, but what happens criminally has no bearing whatsoever on our efforts on the civil side. We are very confident in these cases and in these women; we are incredibly proud of the strength they have shown. These courageous women remain resolute and committed. The 22 civil cases will continue as they have; we have many more months, perhaps years, of work to do to get each individual case tried to a jury, and we very much look forward to presenting them in that regard at the appropriate time.”
The Brazoria County case was the last known criminal charge pending against Watson. The complainant told police that Watson ejaculated on her in a November 2020 massage appointment. Buzbee told the New York Times he expects the grand jury to deliberate and issue a decision on Thursday or Friday.
Neither the Browns nor Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lawyer, were immediately available for comment.
The New York Times noted the publicly available police report was heavily redacted but said that the complainant told police that Watson “touched her with his penis and ejaculated causing semen to touch her arm and hand.”
Since the lawsuits were filed in March 2021, Watson has denied all wrongdoing, and Hardin has said that any sexual acts that occurred during massage appointments were consensual.
Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin released the following statement regarding the grand jury’s decision:
“We are thrilled that the Brazoria County grand jury cleared Deshaun Watson of the one remaining criminal allegation. We’ve known all along what people who learn the facts also know - Deshaun committed no crimes. In fact, two separate grand juries have now found that there wasn’t even probable cause to believe he committed a crime.
Once the Harris County cases were concluded, we were informed that Brazoria County intended to present their case to a grand jury on Wednesday, March 23. We, and the complainant, were offered the opportunity to provide any information we wanted to the grand jury.
It’s important to note that both we and the Cleveland Browns knew this grand jury presentation was pending and attempted not to discuss it publicly until it was completed. Now that the criminal investigations and two different grand jury presentations have been completed, I hope the public and the media will take to heart the closing statement from the Brazoria County district attorney’s letter stating: “Accordingly, this matter is closed.”
It is time to let the civil litigation proceed at a normal pace and for Deshaun Watson to take his place as the quarterback of the future for the Browns. I am fully confident that the Cleveland community will discover that Deshaun Watson is not just a great quarterback but also an incredibly decent person they will be proud to have represent their city.”
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