Deshaun Watson avoids criminal charges as Houston grand jury declines to indict

·NFL columnist
·3 min read

HOUSTON — The Harris County grand jury that convened to weigh evidence and testimony against the Houston Texans' Deshaun Watson in a series of sexual assault allegations voted against indicting the quarterback on any charges Friday.

The decision effectively ends the criminal portion of Watson’s legal battle, which until Friday’s decision had run parallel to the 22 civil lawsuits filed against the quarterback.

The grand jury heard testimony from some of the women who currently have civil lawsuits pending and who also pursued criminal complaints against Watson. After hearing the testimony and being presented with information turned over by the Houston police, jurors didn’t find evidence to indict Watson of a criminal act. Watson was facing nine counts, said Johna Stallings, an official with the county's DA office.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 03: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans in action against the Tennessee Titans during a game at NRG Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 03: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans in action against the Tennessee Titans during a game at NRG Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

In a statement made in front of reporters, Watson said, "I thank everyone who was a part of this, of seeing and hearing both sides. That’s what my point and my team wanted to do, is have a fair slate of us telling our side of the story and letting the conclusion come down to what happened today. That’s what the grand jury decided on. ...

"I’m going to keep fighting to rebuild my name and rebuild my appearance in the community. We’re going to continue to, on the legal side, off the field, handle what we need to handle. But [I’m] also ready to get back on the field. Been prepping for that and also ready to go for that.”

Because grand jury hearings are a closed process, it’s unknown what jurors heard during testimony or in the presentation of findings.

Watson can now turn his attention to the pending civil lawsuits, which are not dependent on a criminal finding to continue forward.

Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said the grand jury’s decision underscored Watson’s claim of innocence and said the quarterback will continue to fight the civil suits.

“We are delighted that the grand jury has looked at the matter thoroughly and reached the same conclusion we did,” Hardin said. “Deshaun Watson did not commit any crimes and is not guilty of any offenses. Now that the criminal investigations have been completed, we are happy to move forward with the civil case depositions. We will vigorously defend those cases with every ounce we have."

The completion of the grand jury process is also expected to resume the NFL’s probe into Watson, which was paused by the league until the Harris County District Attorney’s office could conclude its investigative work and present findings. The NFL hasn't yet interviewed Watson. Hardin has said his client will fully cooperate.

Following Friday’s decision, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said the NFL continues to monitor Watson’s legal path and “[The] matter remains under review of the personal conduct policy.”