The Cleveland Browns’ new franchise quarterback—and that’s very much what he is at this point, since they’ve locked themselves into a five-year contract worth $230 million—will be introduced to the local media later today. That is just a day after Deshaun Watson had yet another court hearing to determine whether or not he would face criminal charges stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct.
In all, 22 separate civil suits have been filed against the former Pro Bowler, from 22 defendants. Of the 22, 10 also filed criminal complaints against him. Nine were given ‘no’ bills last week from a grand jury to determine whether or not he would face indictment. The 10th, filed in a separate county, separately received a ‘no’ bill, meaning that he will not face criminal charges over that accuser’s claims, either.
He still faces 22 civil lawsuits, including from the 10 women who also filed criminal lawsuits against him. It should be made clear that a grand jury voting a ‘no’ bill against indicting an individual for a crime does not mean that it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he did nothing, or even that no crime was committed. At most, it means that the evidence was found to be insufficient to indict an individual—that it did not rise to the level of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that what was alleged is what was done.
According to Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, both he and the Browns were fully aware of this 10th criminal complaint filed against him, but all parties delayed comment on it until the matter was completed. It was only reported yesterday, the day that the grand jury ruled, that the 10th criminal complaint even existed.
This particular criminal complaint has gone further than most of the complaints filed against him. The accuser in question alleges not only that Watson turned a massage therapy session into a sexual situation, but, indeed, that he ejaculated on her during the course of a November 2020 massage session. While the official complaint is heavily redacted, it includes the accusation that Watson “touched her with his penis and ejaculated causing semen to touch her arm and hand”.
Again according to his attorney, Watson was actually deposed in this accuser’s civil (not the criminal) case and answered questions under oath regarding six of the civil cases against him. Prior to the first wave of criminal complaints being dismissed, he pleaded the fifth for an hours-long deposition regarding all 22 civil complaints filed against him.
As a reminder, the Browns, through their general manager, head coach, and owner, insisted that they did an extensive and comprehensive investigation into Watson’s legal situation; they did not, however, speak to any of his accusers or their attorney.
He is, of course, innocent in the eyes of the law, and unless new criminal complaints are filed, he at the moment is under no risk of future criminal prosecution. It remains to be seen with the 22 civil complaints, which he likely will settle. Then it is a matter of whether and how long the NFL, which is conducting a separate, independent investigation not bound by federal or state law, will suspend him.