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For the second time this month, a grand jury in Texas has declined to indict Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson over allegations of sexual assault.
A grand jury in Brazoria County, south of Houston, announced Thursday that it would not be filing charges against Watson, who previously avoided prosecution over accusations from nine other women in Harris County on March 11.
In Brazoria County, Watson was accused of touching an unidentified female masseuse with his penis and ejaculating on her arm and hand, according to a heavily redacted police report.
His accuser in Brazoria County was one of ten women who filed complaints against Watson in neighboring Harris County last year, but her case was relocated when it was determined that it fell out of Houston’s jurisdiction, according to a source familiar with the case.
Last year, Watson was sued by 22 women – mostly massage therapists – over allegations of sexual assault and harassment. The lawsuits claim Watson forced two women to perform oral sex on him, ejaculated on three women, and forcibly kissed another, while 18 women say Watson touched them with his penis during massages.
Complaints from nine of those accusers were previously considered by a Harris County grand jury, which refused to proceed with charges on March 11.
For the second time this month, a grand jury in Texas has declined to indict Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson over allegations of sexual assault
With the specter of legal action seemingly out of the way, the Browns on Friday traded three first-round picks and a fourth-rounder to the Texans for Watson, who was then rewarded with a five-year, $230 million contract by Cleveland.
The Browns were previously made aware that a grand jury would consider pressing charges against Watson in Brazoria County, a source told DailyMail.com.
Watson has denied any wrongdoing, and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, has insisted that any sexual contact between his client and the accusers was entirely consensual.
A spokesperson for Hardin told DailyMail.com that Watson’s attorney would comment on the matter following the grand jury’s expected decision on his client. The Cleveland Browns, meanwhile, did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the 22 women suing Watson, told DailyMail.com that he anticipated this grand jury deliberation in Brazoria County, although he is not directly involved with that case.
‘I have always known that there would be at least one other Texas grand jury,’ Buzbee said in a statement provided to DailyMail.com. ‘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.’
A shot of the Brazoria County courthouse, where a grand jury declined to charge him Thursday
The Browns have faced criticism over the acquisition of Watson.
In response, Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry has insisted that the team did its due diligence by conducting ‘extensive investigative, legal and reference work over the past several months.’
Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in their own statement on Sunday that they were ’empathetic’ to the criticism.
‘We are acutely aware and empathetic to the highly personal sentiments expressed about this decision,’ The Haslams said in theirstatement. ‘Our team’s comprehensive evaluation process was of utmost importance due to the sensitive nature of his situation and the complex factors involved. We also understand there are still some legal proceedings that are ongoing and we will respect due process.’
The Browns traded for Watson on Friday, sending three future first-round picks and a fourth-rounder to Houston for the three-time Pro Bowl selection after a Houston grand jury declined to press criminal charges against him earlier this month. Watson, 26, waived his no-trade clause to facilitate the deal, which came with a new fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract that included a $44.5 million signing bonus.
Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in their own statement on Sunday that the club conducted a rigorous investigation into Watson, who faces 22 lawsuits for sexual misconduct
Following criticism from Browns fans and a women’s group over the controversial trade, team general manager Andrew Berry (pictured) insisted that the team did its due diligence by conducting ‘extensive investigative, legal and reference work over the past several months’
Although he denied the claims, insisting any sexual interaction was consensual, Watson was subsequently benched throughout the 2021 season by the Texans.
The acquisition of the embattled Watson has split fans and sports pundits.
Some, like Akron native LeBron James, celebrated the move on social media, while many others have criticized the team for being oblivious to the concerns about Watson.
‘Is that really the person we want as the face of the Browns?’ asked Robyn Lockner, administrator for an online forum called the ‘Cleveland Browns Women’s Group,’ during an interview with the city’s Fox affiliate. ‘Speaking for myself and the majority of the women in my group, it’s not.’
‘I have 6,200 women in the group and probably 95 percent of them are against this move,’ Lockner added.
The Haslams did not appear to alleviate many concerns on Sunday as many slammed the couple’s vague wording about their ‘comprehensive evaluation process.’
‘Did that comprehensive evaluation process involve talking to the 22 women who’ve accused Deshaun Watson of sexual assault?’ questioned ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. ‘Did it involve talking to the attorney?
‘Unless the Haslams did that, it’s not comprehensive. It’s selective – listening for only what you want to hear.’
Although Akron native LeBron James approved, other Browns fans slammed Cleveland’s trade
Many in the media attacked the Browns’ statement, which seemed like a futile attempt to persuade fans to ignore the outstanding allegations against Watson
The Browns did not contact the plaintiffs’ attorney, Tony Buzbee, he told media outlets Sunday
Longtime NFL reporter Peter King slammed the Browns’ move, claiming the club sold its ‘soul’ in the deal.
‘I don’t think any team should go into business with a player – though cleared of criminal charges – who has 22 women accusing him of indecent acts,’ said NBC’s King. ‘Thirty-one teams should have risen up and said, ”We might be interested in this great football player, but only after we know the full scope of what we’re dealing [with].” The fact is, they don’t know.
‘I stress: We are innocent till proven guilty in this country,’ King continued. ‘But in what other business, in what other line of work, would a person with such serious accusations against him be handed a guaranteed $230 million to lead the jewel of the community, a prized and beloved public trust like the Cleveland Browns?’
Buzbee said he was not contacted by the Browns.
‘The Browns organization did not reach out to me,’ he said in a statement provided to DailyMail.com. ‘I didn’t expect them to do so, and can understand why they didn’t. But, knowing what I know, they probably should have. ‘
The Browns did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for confirmation on Monday morning.
Former NFL offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger slammed the league for punishing players for gambling while rewarding Watson with a large contract
Other criticism has centered around Watson’s contract, which replaced the four-year, $177.5 million extension he signed with the Texans in 2020.
Specifically, some are objecting to the structure of deal, which pays him only $1 million in 2022, when he could face a potential suspension, and $46 million annually over the final four years.
This way, if Watson is suspended in 2022, he’ll lose around $60,000 per game missed.
Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler, did not play in 2021 in the aftermath of the 22 lawsuits
For comparison, were his contract structured evenly over the next five years, he’d lose more than $2 million for every game he’s suspended.
The creative accounting did not go unnoticed.
‘We designed his quarter-billion-dollar contract so that it’d barely matter if he were suspended for all of 2022 due to some legal proceedings that are ongoing,’ podcaster Jason Kirk tweeted, jokingly paraphrasing the Haslam’s statement.
‘This gets even sleazier,’ wrote on fan. ‘The Browns structure Watson’s contract to pay him only $1 of his $230M in the coming season, so his likely NFL suspension for assaulting 22 women costs him virtually nothing in pay.
Former NFL offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger slammed the league for punishing players for gambling while rewarding Watson with a large contract. Specifically, Ohrnberger cited Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, who got a one-year ban after he was caught betting on NFL games with a league-partnered online sports book.
‘Calvin Ridley bet on his team to win with an NFL partner sportsbook,’ Ohrnberger tweeted. ‘1 year suspension.
‘Deshaun Watson is actively facing 22 civil suits of sexual assault and sexual misconduct,’ he continued. ‘Fully guaranteed 5 year $230M contract.’
Other criticism has centered around Watson’s contract, which replaced the four-year, $177.5 million extension he signed with the Texans in 2020. Specifically, some are objecting to the structure of deal, which pays him only $1 million in 2022, when he could face a potential suspension, and $46 million annually over the final four years. This way, if Watson is suspended in 2022, he’ll lose around $60,000 per game missed. For comparison, were his contract structured evenly over the next five years, he’d lose more than $2 million for every game he’s suspended
Source: Daily Mail