HOUSTON — A grand jury decided Friday not to indict Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on criminal charges of sexual assault or harassment.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office presented nine criminal complaints against Watson to a grand jury.
After hearing six hours of testimony, including some of the accusers, grand jurors returned nine "no bills," meaning there will be no criminal charges.
"This is definitely a very emotional moment for me," Watson said after the hearing. "Today is definitely a big day and I think my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for letting the truth be heard and I thank everyone that was a part of this of seeing and hearing both sides."
It's the first time Watson has spoken publicly about the case since the allegations first surfaced more than a year ago. He said he knows it's not over as they turn their attention toward the civil lawsuits.
As for the fans who turned against him?
"That's part of life. You know, you hear things and that's the way of, you know, social media and things happening in today's world," Watson said. "I still love my fans -- even the ones that believed the other side and whatnot, but at the same time, things happen for a reason and people are entitled to their own opinions."
Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, said his client has been unfairly treated from the beginning and the criminal complaints should have been filed before the civil lawsuits.
"We've listened to all of the complaints of those that are making these allegations against him, we've tried to be respectful of them, but this man has not done a single thing wrong," Hardin said after the grand jury hearing.
Attorney Tony Buzbee said earlier that some of the 22 clients he is representing in the lawsuits testified before the grand jury.
“After a Harris County grand jury was presented all the evidence and had the opportunity to hear from all witnesses, grand jurors declined to indict Deshaun Watson. Grand jury proceedings are secret by law, so no information related to their inquiry may be disclosed,” said Dane Schiller, spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
The civil lawsuits
While the criminal investigation is over, the civil suits against Watson still linger.
He's been sued by 22 women on allegations of sexual misconduct and -- in a few cases -- sexual assault.
"As I’ve said, the criminal case is separate from the civil cases. The civil cases will continue to gather steam. We take Mr. Watson's deposition again Tuesday," Buzbee said after the grand jury's decision.
Watson was deposed by Buzbee Friday morning after a judge refused to delay the deposition until after the grand jury decision. Hardin said Watson pleaded the fifth, as expected, meaning the defendant didn't have to answer questions.
Before the hearing, Buzbee said they were hoping for some answers.
"Well, you don’t plead the fifth unless you think you’re gonna incriminate yourself, so if you did nothing wrong, you shouldn’t plead the fifth," Buzbee told us before the deposition. "The two women that we're going to talk about have not made any criminal complaints. There should be no reason whatsoever he can't answer questions about what happened."
Hardin said now that the criminal case is behind them, his client will answer questions in the civil suit, rather than continue to plead the fifth.
"Nobody but an insane lawyer would ever suggest that you would let him be answering civil deposition questions while the criminal investigation is completed," Hardin said.
Hardin has called the lawsuits "a money grab."
The lawsuits were filed by 22 women who accused Watson of harassment and sexual assault during massages.
They accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will during massage appointments.
One woman said Watson forced her to perform oral sex. Watson and his lawyers have denied the accusations.
What's next for Deshaun Watson?
Watson’s future remains up in the air. He demanded a trade by the Texans before the 2021 season started and never played a down.
Hardin said he fully expects the NFL to begin its own investigation now that the criminal case is over.
With no criminal charges though, NFL teams interested in Watson might be ready to make a deal.
Either way, it's highly unlikely Watson will wear a Houston Texans uniform again.