As civil litigation against Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson crawls forward, two sources have confirmed the Harris County District Attorney’s office has launched a grand jury investigation into the quarterback.
The sources confirmed a report from the Fox 26 affiliate in Houston that subpoenas were in the process of being issued by the adult sex crimes and trafficking division of the Harris County prosecutor’s office. One source described the subpoenas as seeking the testimony of a “small handful” of women who have recently filed sexual misconduct complaints against Watson with the Houston Police Department.
There was no timeline given for the witness testimony or grand jury proceedings.
This development has been anticipated by Watson’s defense attorney, Rusty Hardin, as well as Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee, who represents 22 women who have filed civil litigation against Watson since March. For Watson, it potentially represents a new legal challenge on the horizon should the investigation ultimately prompt a grand jury to indict him on one or more felony charges related to the HPD complaints.
Watson will not be subpoenaed for testimony, with the proceedings focused on the complaints of the accusers and whether there is credible evidence to indict Watson in relation to the allegations. The quarterback’s legal team will also not be a party to the investigation or witness testimony, which could also result in a “No Bill” finding, which would indicate that the grand jury did not find sufficient evidence to move forward with a criminal indictment.
The subpoenas come in the midst of two of Watson’s accusers speaking to Sports Illustrated about their civil complaints, providing more expansive detail about their alleged interactions with the quarterback and the subsequent impact of having come forward. Lauren Baxley and Ashley Solis — who voluntarily revealed their identities shortly after filing civil lawsuits against Watson — gave critical accounts of their interactions with NFL investigators, who according to Sports Illustrated have interviews 10 of the 22 women engaged in litigation against Watson. The women said they felt league investigators were engaging in “victim-blaming” during the interviews, including allegedly asking the women what they were wearing during their interactions with Watson.
Thus far, the NFL's investigation into the Houston quarterback has not prompted action by the league office, which has wide latitude under the personal conduct policy to suspend players with pay via the commissioner’s exempt list. A league source indicated to Yahoo Sports in late July that Watson would likely be placed on the exempt list if he were ultimately indicted by a grand jury to face criminal prosecution.
Beyond initial comments on his social media accounts in March, Watson has not addressed the allegations against him in detail. His first comments to media members came Thursday, when he asked reporters why they were repeatedly filming him on the field despite not actively participating in drills during Texans practices since the start of training camp.
“Why are you all always filming me every day? It’s the same s***,” Watson said to reporters as he left the field Thursday.
A team source told Yahoo Sports this week that Watson will continue to remain out of practice drills until he either changes his stance on not playing for the team or a trade develops in the ensuing weeks. That isn’t expected to happen anytime soon, with at least three teams interested in dealing for Watson telling Yahoo Sports that they continue to be concerned about the legal developments surrounding him and whether he will ultimately be available to play in 2021.
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