Harris County district attorney: Lack of indictment by grand jury was not an exoneration of Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson Press Conference
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Some, including attorney Rusty Hardin, want people to believe that the decision of a pair of Texas grand juries to not indict Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson means that Watson has been exonerated. The top law-enforcement officer in Harris County, Texas disagrees.

At the end of a podcast interview of Kim Ogg, Mike Melster gave her the floor, so that she could say anything about the situation that she’d like to say. Here’s what Ogg said: “We respect our justice process. I love the law. It’s designed to get to the truth. That’s really what people want. I don’t think as a culture we can live with injustice. Remember, a grand jury no bill is not an exoneration. People, even when they clear the criminal justice system, often face accountability and repercussions in other parts of our legal system. And so I think to determine whether justice was done in this case you’re going to have to wait and see how it all comes out on the civil side of things and then through the NFL on the administrative side of things. And then people will determine whether that’s justice.”

That’s always been the case. But once the Harris County grand jury decided not to indict Watson on nine criminal complaints in March, and thanks in part to a tweet that naively linked the absence of an indictment with proof of innocence as part of the broader quid pro quo inherent to the world of breaking transactions five minutes before they are announced, teams launched their pursuit of Watson.

After a weekend of reports regarding this team and that team and some other team being interested in Watson, the Panthers, Falcons, Saints, and Browns officially entered the four-team race. The Browns, after being the first team out, decided to go all in with a five-year, $230 million, fully-guaranteed offer. It worked. The Browns got Watson.

Hooray for the Browns!

The exclamation point quickly became a question mark as reality crept back into the equation. Twenty-two civil lawsuits remained. An NFL investigation continued. The possibility of more lawsuits and more attention and more scrutiny and more people loudly wondering what the Browns were thinking became, within three months, reality.

Ogg’s comments underscore the fact that no one should have gotten swept up in the chase for Watson’s contract, not without a settlement of all existing lawsuits and a commitment by Watson to quickly resolve any other claims that may surface. Say what you will about Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (and we’ll admit we’ve sat plenty), but he had the right idea — all cases must be settled before a trade is made.

The Browns should have done the same thing. But with four teams falling all over themselves to get Watson, the Browns weren’t in a position to dictate terms. None of the four terms were.

Ogg’s comments also reinforce my belief that prosecutor Johna Stallings used the cover of the ridiculously secretive grand jury process to subtly (or otherwise) make it known to the grand jury that, as Ogg said, Watson didn’t have to be indicted to face “accountability and repercussions in other parts of our legal system.” Again, it would have been very difficult to convict Watson with proof beyond a reasonable doubt, especially since he has the money to hire a dream team of defense counsel who would have if-it-doesn’t-fit-you-must-acquit-ted their way to win after win after win in criminal court.

Ogg’s point is that Watson’s reckoning (if any) will happen elsewhere. In civil court and/or in the Court of Roger Goodell. And she’s right.

Hopefully, that will be the final word on this knee-jerk notion that the lack of an indictment means the existence of innocence, from Hardin or anyone else. No indictment most definitely does not mean absolute innocence, and the person ultimately responsible for the presentation of these cases to a grand jury in Houston has said so herself.

39 responses to “Harris County district attorney: Lack of indictment by grand jury was not an exoneration of Deshaun Watson

  1. No way Watson should see the field until this is all resolved. If he does, I hope women’s rights groups protest outside every NFL stadium this year. Put your big boy pants on Goodell and drop the hammer.

  2. Watson should be out of the NFL until his legal problems are resolved in civil court – and without any financial compensation.

  3. How can he agree to a settlement if he is suspended indefinitely without pay. Catch 22.

  4. No DA should be talking.

    And way to many believe in “guilty, until proven innocent” justice systems.

    Which is scary all by itself.

  5. People believe that Watson shouldn’t be able to play until the cases are resolved. But, with gambling becoming more entrenched in the NFL, doesn’t that kind of thinking open up the possibility for some kind of “funny business”? The biggest injustice may be that our legal process moves incredibly slowly.

  6. Thanks, Mike-

    I, for one, have kept an open mind– and in so doing have learned a ton about the Grand Jury process and the machinations of the legal process at the prosecutorial level by reading your articles and insights on the Watson case-

    Happy Father’s Day!

  7. I can think of 26 votes Ms Ogg won’t be getting next election. Possibly more.

  8. So Calvin Ridley gets an immediate indefinite suspension with a 1 year minimum for sports betting infractions and no one (outside of maybe a Falcons fan) claims it’s too severe.
    Watson, facing more then two dozen, substantial (and often quite ugly) sexual abuse allegations and there’s argumentative debates that a 1 year suspension is too much…
    What kind of message, to women, to the daughters of any Cleveland fans, does this send?

  9. No the lack of an indictment does not exonerate Watson. The lack of an indictment by two separate Grand Jurys consisting of 16 to 23 Jurors in each proceeding determined that there was insufficient evidence, or probable cause, to indict D.Watson on criminal charges based on the evidence the prosecutor presented. The lack of an indictment means that these same Jurors would have found D.Watson not Guilty even before or without a Defense being presented to them. Getting an indictment is easy the fact that they didn’t get one speaks volumes.

  10. In the end, Tony Buzbee will pay the most for this exercise in vindictiveness. Mark my words.

  11. You can think any way you chose but the fact of the matter is that since Watson was not convicted of any crime in the criminal proceedings, if the NFL suspends him based off of some ” Moral compass of Personal conduct”, Watson and his lawyers WILL sue for Defamation of character, and they WILL win in the courts……based off of the exact same evidence for which he was cleared of any criminal misconduct in the 1st place. The NFL cannot make up their own ” law”

  12. You can comment all you want. But the law is the law. Public opinion does NOT constitute ” new evidence”.

  13. When will people realize that the NFLs punishment has no correlation to actual legal charges? Watson has made the NFL, the Texans, and the Browns look horrible. That this kind of behavior is acceptable. You want your kids sporting a Watson jersey? The sheer amount of women he sought massages from, the location of these women, the urge to bring his own towel, the NDAs.. Is this normal behavior? It’s a bad look for Watson and the league. The amount of people standing up for the behavior is very concerning. Maybe it says more about these commenters than it does about Watson.

  14. In the eyes of law ,then getting a massage and then groping the person giving the massage ,is completely legal?

  15. I don’t know that he didn’t commit a crime. So I won’t say he didn’t, but many people on this blog are sure that he did.

    Forget our Judicial branch I guess. I’m sure you all know better.

  16. Suspending Watson with pay (commissioner’s list) until all cases have ended, then handing him a substantial suspension that eats a big chunk of his contract would be a way for Goodell and the 31 other angry owners to send a powerful message to the Browns.

  17. freeagent says:
    June 19, 2022 at 5:59 pm
    Suspending Watson with pay (commissioner’s list) until all cases have ended, then handing him a substantial suspension that eats a big chunk of his contract would be a way for Goodell and the 31 other angry owners to send a powerful message to the Browns.

    82Rate This

    —————-

    Goodell signed off on that trade. He is ushering in the cheating.

    It may backfire, but follow the money. Goodell is the guy people need to balk at as nuch as the Browns.

    The guaranteed money is beyond suspicious. The Browns clearly had reassurance from cheater Goodell.

  18. NewYorkLion says:
    June 19, 2022 at 4:19 pm
    No the lack of an indictment does not exonerate Watson. The lack of an indictment by two separate Grand Jurys consisting of 16 to 23 Jurors in each proceeding determined that there was insufficient evidence, or probable cause, to indict D.Watson on criminal charges based on the evidence the prosecutor presented. The lack of an indictment means that these same Jurors would have found D.Watson not Guilty even before or without a Defense being presented to them. Getting an indictment is easy the fact that they didn’t get one speaks volumes.

    ===========

    GOAT comment

  19. dl101693 says:
    June 19, 2022 at 4:44 pm
    New York Lion , above, is spot on
    —————————————-
    New York Lion, above, is clueless.

    For starters, in Texas, a Grand Jury consists of 12 people. Not some random number between 16 and 23.

    We could go on and on and on from there.

  20. What I absolutely love and find entertaining is the fact that people actually think the NFL and the court of law are the same. The NFL is one of the largest and most powerful (32) corporations in the world. All they care about is money. So if a player is brining down the shield, which could threaten the brand — the law figures into very little. Calvin Ridley didn’t break the law – and he’s suspended for indefinitely, for at least a year. Why? Because he supposedly threatened the integrity of the game. If the NFL wants to stand by the women is purports to support, then they are in a pickle. Especially since they also say that owners are now held to the same accountability as players for behavior. Watson’s situation will be charged with all kinds of politics, but it really just comes down to money. And if another criminal charge comes up for Watson — or even a 27th civil suit — the NFL will watch how the public responds. How people are treated , including Watson, now seems to be of little consequence.

  21. “The exclamation point quickly became a question mark as reality crept back into the equation.” That is a very artful statement.

    Anyway, we must remember that Civil court has a much lower bar – remember OJ? He was “not Guilty” in criminal court but “Responsible” in Civil court. It cost him a bundle. Mr Watson might be in the same boat.

  22. Not an exoneration, and not an indictment. Meaning their is no evidence to justify a conviction. Not guilty is the best description of what happened.

  23. To start with I’m ashamed of the Browns for signing this guy to start with.Mayfield took a 1-31 team to respectability in 3 yrs. He was hurt all year last year so I’ll give him a pass. Now about Watson. I think he’s guilty as sin but you have a problem with the he said she said as there are no witnesses. I think he should play without any suspension until his day in court. Law says innocent until proven guilty. The last 4 women joined in after they heard how much money this guys getting paid. This whole thing won’t go to trail for years.

  24. You don’t have to commit a crime to be civilly liable. For example, t’s not a crime to fire someone because of their race. You couldn’t be prosecuted for doing that. But, you can certainly be sued civilly. Some of the acts that Watson is accused of may or may not be violations of the criminal code, but that doesn’t mean he’s not financially liable. And that doesn’t mean he can’t be suspended. Innocent until proven guilty is not a thing in civil court. It doesn’t apply. It’s liable or not liable. Period.

  25. All that means is the DA isn’t confident they have enough to secure a conviction. They can always wait and hope something comes along.

    If they go ahead and lose, that’s it.

  26. “Not an exoneration, and not an indictment.”

    It means that there were no witnesses to the crimes, not that he didn’t do it.

  27. An indictment us not proof either way. So correct a lack of one does not prove innocence. It just means that a room full of people were presented with the evidence and asked if there was enough to reasonably suspect a crime had been committed. That roomful of people voted they did not think there was a crime committed based on what they were shown. He has yet to be subjected to the ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ part if the process because it got thrown out when that roomful if people voted there was not enough to believe a crime had been committed. We can all have our opinions on whether that is accurate, but that is what it means.

  28. denverdave3 says:
    June 19, 2022 at 8:19 pm
    “The exclamation point quickly became a question mark as reality crept back into the equation.” That is a very artful statement.

    Anyway, we must remember that Civil court has a much lower bar – remember OJ? He was “not Guilty” in criminal court but “Responsible” in Civil court. It cost him a bundle. Mr Watson might be in the same boat.
    —————————-
    He was never in court being held to that standard because this failed to get an indictment. The standard for indictment is also much lower. Its simply whether you think there is enough evidence to reasonably suspect a crime has been committed. The grand jury voted no on that. Whether or not you agree that is still the standard and how they voted on it.

  29. Not taking a side here , but all these accusations and not one piece of video evidence yet? Why don’t they have cameras in these massage parlor rooms to protect the employee ?

  30. We’re not all millionaire’s like Watson. He’s set for life financially. I wonder how we (everyday people) would react if we were told we can’t earn a living based on accusations and pending litigation?

  31. monarch76 says:
    June 19, 2022 at 8:24 pm
    Not an exoneration, and not an indictment. Meaning their is no evidence to justify a conviction. Not guilty is the best description of what happened.
    ——-
    Doesn’t mean that at all. Just means the DA didn’t want to pursue charges. Possible payoff from Hardin? Maybe. Also, that doesn’t mean there is “no evidence” Seems like everyone wants to write their own narratives.

  32. Yea, and tell me again what the Browns have to pay Watson in year 1 of this contact? So they still have their starter from last 4 years, and they have to pay Watson peanuts in year 1 when he is likely suspended? Maybe Browns are smarter than everyone else?

  33. Remember, that in criminal proceedings there is the bar of having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed. In civil court you just have to have 51% likelihood that something you did triggers a cause of action.

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