A grand jury in Texas Brazoria County on Thursday declined to file sexual misconduct charges against Deshaun Watson, the former Houston Texans quarterback who was traded to the Cleveland Browns just days ago, District Attorney Tom Selleck said in a statement.
A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, has dismissed nine criminal charges against Watson this month. But a tenth charge filed with the Houston Police Department described an alleged incident outside the jurisdiction of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
The case, in Brazoria County, south of Houston, was the last known criminal case against Watson. The complainant, who was a massage therapy student at the time, told police Watson ejaculated on her during a massage appointment in November 2020.
The publicly available police report was heavily redacted, but said the complainant told police in April 2021 that Watson “touched her with his penis and ejaculated causing the sperm to touch her arm and hand”. Police called the crime under investigation as indecent assault a Class A felony in Texas that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $4,000.
The plaintiff, whose name has been redacted in the indictment, is one of 22 plaintiffs to sue Watson in civil court for sexual misconduct during massage appointments.
Watson has denied any wrongdoing and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, has said that all sexual acts that took place during massage appointments were consensual. After the Harris County grand jury declined to charge on March 11, Hardin said in a statement that “criminal investigations have been completed,” although he said in an interview Thursday that he had known all along that a case against could be brought to him. Watson in the province of Brazoria.
Hardin said Watson was impeached in this plaintiff’s civil suit on Tuesday, the day before the Brazoria County grand jury heard the criminal case. Watson had invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid answering questions in the civil lawsuits while criminal cases against him were pending in Harris County. But Watson waived that right and has answered questions under oath in six of the civil cases, including Tuesday’s impeachment, Hardin said.
Hardin said that once the criminal cases were dismissed by the Harris County jury, he felt comfortable having Watson answer questions for this plaintiff’s civil suit.
“It was just a practical decision,” Hardin said. “I knew what he was going to say, so I took the position that I’m willing to bet my license on having him testify in one case.”
Hardin said the Browns knew there were still criminal charges against Watson before they acted on his behalf. A Browns spokesperson did not specify when the team was notified of the Brazoria County case.
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NFL teams took the Harris County decision as a green light to pursue Watson through trade, and the Browns gave Watson a guaranteed five-year contract of $230 million, a record for a guaranteed deal. The structure of the deal — with a base salary of only about $1 million in 2022 — would mitigate Watson’s financial penalty for missing games if the NFL suspends him this season for a violation of its personal conduct policy.
The Browns said: in a statement on Sunday that they conducted an “extensive evaluation process” before acting for Watson and doing “extensive” investigative, legal and reference work. The statement also acknowledged that “some legal proceedings” were continuing, but it was unclear whether that statement referred to criminal cases.
The NFL’s investigation into the charges against Watson is ongoing. An individual who identified himself as a security representative for the NFL requested information from the Houston Police Department on March 15, including witness statements and phone records or social media posts, as well as asking for interviews with the police investigators working on the case, according to police files.
Prior to the deal with the Browns, Watson also met the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints last week.