HOUSTON — Star NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson, accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women during massage appointments, sat down in his attorney’s office Friday morning to testify for the first time in two cases.
He sneaked in undetected by the nearly half-dozen media members who camped outside the downtown skyscraper where his lawyer Rusty Hardin’s office was located. said before The statements would be “a worthless exercise” because Watson recommended using the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.
Tony Buzbee, attorney for the 22 women who brought civil cases against Watson, said Watson was indeed quoting his Fifth Amendment rights during two statements lasting approximately 90 minutes each. Buzbee estimates that Watson answered 150 or more questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right. The women who filed these two civil cases did not file criminal charges against Watson.
While Watson was fired, perhaps a more significant development in the case was taking shape at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, about a mile away. There, prosecutors presented evidence to a 12-person grand jury on Friday. The grand jury was expected to meet for most of the day and consider the charges against Watson.
“Nothing we do today has anything to do with what’s going on in criminal court,” Buzbee said.
In 10 criminal complaints filed against Houston Texans quarterback Watson last year, he described a series of acts, including exposing himself, deliberately touching therapists’ hands with his penis, and three allegations of sexual assault. Numerous women who filed charges were ready to speak to the grand jury about their interactions with Watson if summoned by prosecutors. Buzbee said the prosecutors’ plan included presenting the videotaped interviews these women had with the police.
Hardin did not immediately respond to a message asking for comment.
Almost exactly a year ago, 28-year-old licensed massage therapist Ashley Solis filed the first lawsuit against Watson, saying she purposely touched his hand with her erect and exposed penis during a massage appointment at her home in March 2020. In the weeks that followed, similar allegations against one of professional football’s brightest young stars had piled up with dizzying speed.
Watson denied any wrongdoing, and Hardin said that sexual acts that occur during massage appointments are consensual. Hardin said earlier this week “pleased” The grand jury would decide whether Watson would face criminal charges, and he confidently asserted that he did not believe his client would be charged.
The fact that a grand jury verdict without a determination of guilt or innocence was so important to those concerned reflected the interests of the case. Speaking to the grand jury on Friday, the women urged that allegations of abuse against a star athlete be taken seriously. And Watson sought not only to be cleared of wrongdoing, but to position himself to be traded from the Texans to continue his NFL career with a different team.
The NFL’s free agency period kicks off on March 16, when the league’s new year begins.
One of the NFL’s top junior quarterbacks, Watson hasn’t played a game since the final week of the 2020 regular season. Losing his magic with the Texans after 4-12 seasons in the midst of front office dysfunction, Watson requested a trade. But the effort to resolve the rift between Watson and the franchise has returned to an avalanche of lawsuits filed last March that accused Watson of sexual misconduct.
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He’s been on the NFL side ever since. The League opened its own investigation, but chose not to punish Watson or take him aside as he was not charged with a criminal offense.
The Texans said in a statement last March that they “will continue to take this and all issues that concern everyone within the Houston Texans organization seriously” and that the team will not comment further until the league’s investigation concludes, a process with no public timetable.
Watson attended the team’s training camp last summer, he risked being fined $50,000 per day missed. The Texans chose to leave him on the inactive list for the entire 2021 season, advancing with Davis Mills and Tyrod Taylor as quarterbacks, again winning just four games.
David Montgomery Contributed to reporting from Houston.