Watson visits Browns as 2nd grand jury declines to indict
CLEVELAND (AP) — Deshaun Watson’s first day with the Browns was anything but routine — for him or his new team.
As Watson arrived in Cleveland for a physical and to perhaps finally answer questions about his past behavior, a second Texas grand jury declined to indict the quarterback, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by 22 women and still faces civil lawsuits.
A grand jury in Brazoria County met Thursday and listened to evidence related to one criminal complaint filed to Houston police by one of the 22 massage therapists, who have accused Watson of harassing or assaulting them during sessions.
The decision followed a similar one by a Harris County grand jury, which declined to indict Watson on March 11, triggering a pursuit by the Browns and several other teams for one of the league’s top QBs.
“Accordingly, this matter is closed,” Brazoria County District Attorney Tom Selleck said in a statement.
Only hours earlier, Watson, wearing an orange throwback Browns jacket, arrived at the team’s headquarters in Berea, Ohio. His trip to Ohio had been delayed so Watson could give depositions Tuesday and Wednesday in Houston in some of the civil lawsuits.
TV cameras captured Watson walking into the facility shortly before noon and being escorted upstairs. He underwent a physical, the last stage in finalizing his $230 million contract, and the Browns will introduce him at a 1 p.m. news conference Friday.
When he meets with media, it will be the first time reporters have asked Watson about the allegations or the Browns about their decision to trade for the 26-year-old with so much legal baggage.
The team said Watson will be joined by general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski, but not owner Dee and Jimmy Haslam, who will do a separate Zoom meeting later in the day. No reason was given why the Haslams will be at the Watson news availability.
The Brazoria County District Attorney’s Office did not begin investigating the other complaint until the nine in Harris County were concluded, said Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lead attorney.
According to the woman’s lawsuit, during two massage sessions in November 2020 in a home in the Houston suburb of Pearland, in Brazoria County, Watson tried to get her to touch his penis and ejaculated during the session.
Watson has maintained his innocence while saying any sexual activity during the sessions was consensual.
In their lawsuits, the 22 women accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex.
Hardin said the Browns had been aware of the second grand jury before signing Watson last week.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Watson, who sat out the 2020 season after demanding a trade, stunned the NFL by choosing Cleveland to restart his career over several other teams after initially telling the Browns he wasn’t interested in playing for them.
However, he may have been swayed by the team’s playoff-ready roster and the record-setting contract.
To this point, the Browns’ only comments on their pursuit of Watson came in statements from the Haslams, who insisted the team went through a “comprehensive evaluation process” before deciding to pursue Watson and ultimately signing him.
The Haslams flew to Houston last week and met with Watson along with Berry and Stefanski, who watched film with the quarterback.