Grand jury appears set to weigh charges against Deshaun Watson
By Jenny Vrentas and Juliet Macur
Nearly a year after allegations of sexual misconduct against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson were first publicized, several women who filed criminal complaints against him have been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury Friday, according to their lawyer, Tony Buzbee.
Ten women filed criminal complaints against Watson last year, accusing him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions, according to Houston police records. The complaints released to the public were heavily redacted but listed acts ranging from Watson exposing himself, touching therapists’ hands with his penis and ejaculating on them. Three of the complaints allege sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, defined in Texas as nonconsensual penetration. Prosecutors are expected to present at least some of these cases to the grand jury, which will decide if criminal charges will be brought against Watson.
Search warrants issued in October in connection with the Houston police investigation, seeking access to the social media and Cash App accounts police said Watson used to book and pay for massages, named indecent assault as the crime being investigated. Indecent assault is a class A misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000, while sexual assault is a second-degree felony.
Watson has denied any wrongdoing, and it is possible the grand jury will decide not to indict him for any crime. Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lawyer, said Tuesday that he was “delighted” that the grand jury was going to meet because those matters have been looming over Watson for much too long already. He’s hoping that the grand jury will make a decision about Watson on Friday.
“The free agency time is around the corner and we’ve wanted this decision to be made by then and it looks like they’re going to and I’m welcoming it,” Hardin said in a telephone interview.
There’s never been any crime here, no matter if you call it indecent assault or anything else,” he said. “These are civil matters that belong in the civil courts.”
The district attorney’s office for Harris County, which includes Houston, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
The same day as grand jury proceedings appear set to begin, Watson will be questioned under oath for some of the 22 lawsuits against him, Buzbee said. Eight of the 10 women who filed criminal complaints also have a pending lawsuit, but Watson will not yet be deposed in those cases. Hardin sought to delay Watson’s deposition until after April 1. But a judge ruled last month that depositions of Watson could begin for nine of the civil cases in which the plaintiffs have already given their depositions and did not file criminal complaints.
Hardin said the deposition of Watson on Friday will be “a worthless exercise” because he will advise Watson to assert his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
“We’re not going to answer questions until the grand jury is completed,” he said.
Ashley Solis, a 28-year-old licensed massage therapist, filed the first lawsuit against Watson last spring, saying that he purposely touched her hand with his erect and exposed penis during a March 30, 2020, massage appointment at her home. She filed a police report in early April 2021. Because the statute of limitations for misdemeanor cases in Texas is two years from the date the offense took place, the deadline for bringing charges against Watson in connection with Solis’ case is the end of this month.
Of the 10 criminal complaints filed with Houston police, one has already passed the statute of limitations, an account of indecent assault from 2019. Another took place outside Harris County and would be in a different prosecutor’s jurisdiction.
Complainants who receive a subpoena don’t know if the prosecutor will be presenting their case to the grand jury or if they are being called in as a witness for other cases. Buzbee said he knew of at least six of his clients who received a subpoena.
Watson has not played in an NFL game since January 2021. He was eligible to play during the 2021 season but sat out as he sought a trade from the Texans.