Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, is pictured during a game against the Chicago Bears in December 2020. He will not face criminal charges linked to a sexual assault and harassment investigation, a grand jury ruled on Friday. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI | License Photo
March 12 (UPI) -- Deshaun Watson will not face criminal charges in connection to sexual assault and harassment lawsuits filed by 22 women after a grand jury declined to indict the Houston Texans quarterback.
The 12-person grand jury in Harris County, Texas, heard more than six hours of testimony and evidence from prosecutors on Friday. The jury, which is not required to issue a unanimous decision, voted to dismiss nine out of the 10 charges against Watson. Prosecutors declined to present the 10th.
In a written statement, Watson's attorney Rusty Hardin said it's "time to let Deshaun move on."
"There were no crimes here but there is a plaintiffs' attorney churning up negative press and churning up his clients hoping for a payday," Hardin wrote.
Johna Stallings, chief of the adult sex crimes and trafficking division with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, declined to say which specific charges were considered by jury members, adding that her office respects the grand jury's decision, ESPN reported.
Watson still faces 22 civil cases linked to his conduct at massage appointments, where he allegedly forced women into oral sex and touched them with his genitals.
Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the women, told ESPN on Friday that the criminal case is separate from the civil lawsuits, which will continue to move toward trial.
"The civil cases will continue to gather steam. We take Mr. Watson's deposition again Tuesday. Respect the process," Buzbee said.
Police began investigating Watson a year ago, when a woman filed a lawsuit on March 16, 2021, claiming that the quarterback became pushy and aggressive during a massage appointment at her home in March 2020. The other women came forward with similar stories within a month.
Watson plans "to keep fighting to rebuild my name and rebuild my appearance in the community," he said during a news conference after the grand jury's dismissal. It was his first remarks to the press in more than a year.
"I thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ for letting the truth be heard," Watson said.
"And I thank everyone that was a part of this for 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 to what happened today, and that's what the grand jury decided on."
Watson hasn't played for the Texans since the first March 2021 allegation but remained on the active roster and collected his base salary of $10.54 million for the 2021 season.
He asked to be traded from the team in January 2021 stating that he disagreed with the direction of the franchise. The ruling on Friday will likely open the door to trade offers from other teams.