Browns QB Deshaun Watson avoids criminal charges from second Texas grand jury
When a grand jury in Texas declined to indict Deshaun Watson on March 11, the Browns and three other NFL teams launched an intense competition for the quarterback.
The Browns ultimately won the sweepstakes for Watson, agreeing to a trade March 18 with the Houston Texans.
Watson's legal issues took another twist this week when a second grand jury in Brazoria County, south of Houston, considered criminal charges against Watson.
On Thursday, the grand jury ultimately declined to indict Watson.
"After a careful and thorough review of the facts and evidence documented in the reports prepared by the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office and the Houston Police Department, as well as hearing testimony from witnesses, the Grand Jury for Brazoria County has declined to charge Deshaun Watson with any crimes," Brazoria County District Attorney Tom Selleck said in a statement via the Houston Chronicle. "Accordingly, this matter is closed."
In a statement, Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in part, "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."
If this week were not already eventful enough for Watson, his introductory news conference with the Browns is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus in Berea. General Manager Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski will accompany Watson. Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam are slated to address media members at 3 p.m. Friday via Zoom.
What are the Browns saying about the second grand jury?
Browns spokesperson Peter John-Baptiste said the team was "aware of the potential" of a second grand jury gathering before the organization traded for Watson.
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News of another grand jury convening Wednesday broke shortly after Watson reported to Browns headquarters Thursday to take a physical, the final step in completing the trade. Watson passed the physical, a person familiar with the situation told the Beacon Journal.
What happened during Deshaun Watson's first grand jury?
The first grand jury met in Harris County in Texas and rejected nine criminal cases against Watson, but a 10th criminal complaint alleged an incident outside the jurisdiction of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, according to the New York Times.
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The Brazoria County grand jury heard evidence in a case in which a woman told the Houston Police Department that Watson ejaculated on her during a November 2020 massage appointment, according to the Times.
"I have always known that there would be at least one other Texas grand jury," the woman's lawyer, Tony Buzbee, told USA Today. "The complaint being considered currently in Brazoria County was made a year back.
"I have no involvement in the criminal process. What happens criminally has no bearing on the civil cases. I am involved with the civil side in what I believe to be very strong cases. That is, has been, and will remain my primary focus. Even though I’m not involved, anyone who has suggested that Mr. Watson has been cleared criminally was obviously misinformed or not paying attention."
How Deshaun Watson chose the Browns
After informing the Browns on March 17 he would not waive his no-trade clause for them, Watson changed his mind the next day and chose Cleveland over the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers. Watson received a five-year contract from the Browns worth a record-setting $230 million fully guaranteed.
Watson, who has denied all wrongdoing, will likely be suspended by the NFL for at least part of next season.
"We continue to closely monitor all of the developments in the matter, which remains under review of the personal conduct policy," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to the Beacon Journal.
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Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.