Second grand jury in Texas declines to indict Browns QB Deshaun Watson

Another grand jury in Texas has declined to indict NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson just two weeks after a separate grand jury in a different county declined to indict him in a series of sexual misconduct cases against him.

The grand jury in Brazoria County, Texas, came back with the decision Thursday after considering a case against him involving a woman from 2020. Watson, 26, recently was traded to the Cleveland Browns by the Houston Texans and still could face discipline from the NFL even though he has not been criminally charged.

"After a careful and thorough review of the facts and evidence documented in the reports prepared by the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office and the Houston Police Department, as well as hearing testimony from witnesses, the Grand Jury for Brazoria County has declined to charge Deshaun Watson with any crimes,” said a statement from the district attorney there, Tom Selleck. “Accordingly, this matter is closed.”

Two weeks ago, a grand jury in Harris County rejected nine similar cases against Watson. In this case, the alleged incident happened outside of Harris County involving a woman who is also suing him in civil court. She is one of 22 women who sued Watson last year, accusing him sexual misconduct in massage sessions.

Deshaun Watson did not play during the 2021 season.

In Texas, a grand jury is required to find enough evidence of probable cause that a crime was committed in order to return an indictment. Anything less that than can result in no indictment, as happened in Harris County.

Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, said he was informed beforehand that the Brazoria County grand jury would hear the case on Wednesday. He said "both we and the Cleveland Browns knew this grand jury presentation was pending and attempted not to discuss it publicly until it was completed."

"We are thrilled that the Brazoria County grand jury cleared Deshaun Watson of the one remaining criminal allegation," Hardin said in a statement. "We’ve known all along what people who learn the facts also know – Deshaun committed no crimes. In fact, two separate grand juries have now found that there wasn’t even probable cause to believe he committed a crime."

A civil lawsuit filed by a woman against Watson in March 2021 describes incidents that took place Brazoria County in November 2020. The lawsuit said Watson initiated contact on Instagram asking her about her availability for a massage. She stated that she found it peculiar because she was only a student at the time and did not have a massage therapy license. She stated he asked her to come to a private suite at his hotel, but she declined. Yet Watson kept “barraging her with messages,” according to her suit.

“At one point Watson got so persistent that he offered to drive to … Pearland, Texas, to her mother’s house so they could do the massage,” the suit stated.

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Pearland is south of Houston in Brazoria County, where the grand jury considered the case.

The lawsuit describes two encounters there in November 2020. The first time, her lawsuit stated Watson directed her to his groin area as he was wearing a small towel that kept sliding off. The lawsuit said she refused to touch him there.

The second time at the same location, her lawsuit stated his towel slipped off and exposed him before he aggressively moved his penis toward her hand and ejaculated on her hand and arm.

She declined his request for another massage and didn’t take his calls after that, according to her suit.

USA TODAY Sports obtained a Houston police report filed in April 2021 that describes a similar incident that same month, though much of the report is redacted.

"No indictment doesn’t mean that the allegations were false," said Kenneth Williams, professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. "It simply means that the prosecutor and grand jury did not believe there was sufficient evidence to move forward and they did not believe that the charges could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial."

The civil lawsuits against Watson remain active and separate from any criminal proceedings. They generally describe similar incidents with Watson, often accusing him of exposing himself and causing himself to touch the women inappropriately after initiating contact on social media.

Hardin has said the women are lying and that any sexual encounters were consensual

“What happens criminally has no bearing on the civil cases," said the attorney for the plaintiffs in the civil cases, Tony Buzbee. "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."

Watson could still face a suspension from the NFL.

"We continue to closely monitor all developments in the matter which remains under review of the personal conduct policy," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Thursday after the grand jury's decision.

Hardin is hoping his client can move on with this career after not playing last season amid these legal troubles. 

"It is time to let the civil litigation proceed at a normal pace and for Deshaun Watson to take his place as the quarterback of the future for the Browns," he said. "I am fully confident that the Cleveland community will discover that Deshaun Watson is not just a great quarterback but also an incredibly decent person they will be proud to have represent their city. 

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: bschrotenb@usatoday.com