Deshaun Watson investigation: Texas quarterback expected to represent 5th before grand jury in sexual assault lawsuits

HOUSTON, Texas — A grand jury on Friday began reviewing evidence collected during a police investigation into allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

The grand jury’s work began on the same day that attorneys for 22 women were scheduled to begin questioning Watson during testimony that is part of court cases they filed against him last year.

In their lawsuits, the women allege that Watson exposed himself, touched her with his penis, or kissed her against her will during massage appointments. One woman claimed Watson forced her to perform oral sex.

Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lead attorney, said he welcomed the grand jury and hoped they would decline to indict the NFL star. Watson and his lawyers have denied the allegations. His lawyers have said that “some sexual activity” took place during some massage appointments, but that he never forced anyone.

The first lawsuit against Watson was filed last March. The Harris County Attorney’s Office presented the grand jury with evidence and testimony from a Houston Police Department investigation that began in April 2021 after filing a criminal complaint. The FBI also examined the allegations against Watson.

Ten women have filed criminal complaints against Watson with the police, according to Tony Buzbee, the lead attorney for the 22 women plaintiffs. Eight of those 10 women are represented by Buzbee and they were subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury on Friday, he said.

“They’ll be happy to be there,” Buzbee said.

At the same time that the grand jury was convening in the Harris County Criminal Court in downtown Houston, Buzbee was conducting Watson’s testimony about half a mile away at the offices of Hardin’s law firm.

Hardin said Watson will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Watson will not answer questions in a statement until the grand jury makes a decision, Hardin said.

Buzbee’s questioning of Watson was to last 45 to 50 hours over several days.

Most of the women complaining have already been deposed by Watson’s lawyers. No civil trial date has been set for the lawsuits.

“In my view, if you’ve done nothing wrong and you’re innocent, you shouldn’t worry about incriminating yourself,” Buzbee said. “My clients have not asserted the Fifth. Instead, they bravely testified under oath what Deshaun Watson did to them.”

Watson’s attorneys have tried to balance their defense of the NFL star while also condemning sexual violence against women.

They have labeled the lawsuits against him a “money robbery” and allege that all 22 women who filed lawsuits are lying — a strategy some experts and advocates say relies on long-used tropes to support such allegations minimize. Buzbee said some of his clients have faced criticism and even death threats.

Even before the lawsuits were filed, Watson had asked for action. The trade request and lawsuits kept Watson away all of last season.

The Texans were expected to look to trade Watson this offseason.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Deshaun Watson investigation: Texas quarterback expected to represent 5th before grand jury in sexual assault lawsuits

Dais Johnston

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