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Two Texas grand juries declined to pursue criminal charges against former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was traded to the Cleveland Browns earlier this month – a deal that has since raised questions about the organization’s decision to keep him despite 22 running Civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault include assault and harassment.
But a prominent Texas criminal defense attorney who specializes in sex abuse cases believes these civil trials will shed light on victims’ claims.
Michelle Simpson Tuegel, who has represented sex abuse and assault survivors in high-profile cases like the Larry Nassar litigation, said in an interview with Fox News Digital on Tuesday that she was not shocked by the decision of the Harris County grand juries and Brazoria County not to file charges against Watson and that the civil outcome of these cases will not necessarily be the same.
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“I think where people really miss certain things is that criminal trials usually fail adult survivors and the burden of proof in a criminal trial is a lot heavier than it is in a civil trial or an administrative investigation — like what the NFL has done or what schools have done.” Conduct for sexual assault on campus – a similar administrative way of investigating sexual misconduct,” explained Simpson Tuegel.
Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans looks on before their game against the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium on November 22, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
“A lot of people think, ‘Well, there are no charges, so these allegations have no weight,’ and I see every day in my practice that that’s not the case.”
Simpson Tuegel said that around 80% of the victims she represents in civil cases have not faced criminal prosecution. She pointed to one of her recent Harris County cases in which the defendant was not indicted by a grand jury despite “overwhelming evidence,” but the victim in her case was ultimately awarded $44 million in a civil lawsuit.
“The burden and evidence required for the civil suit varies.”
Simpson Tuegel said civil litigation could take months and “sometimes it takes years” to play out what could happen in Watson’s situation.
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Meanwhile, she voiced her concerns about the Browns’ and NFL’s handling of the Watson trade, arguing that it sends a “deterrent” message to victims of sexual assault.
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski speaks during a press conference introducing quarterback Deshaun Watson at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus March 25, 2022 in Berea, Ohio. (Nick Cammett/Getty Images)
“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the years is a repeated pattern of the NFL favoring athletes over and at the expense of victims, and I think especially in this MeToo or post-MeToo era, the NFL is trying to some extent Degrees to save face by doing something gives the impression that they are conducting an investigation and so their decisions and his $230 million contract are fine. But I think what is missing there is this investigation, and even in their admission, there is not included speaking at length with the victims.
Simpson Tuegel was referring to comments from Browns general manager Andrew Berry, who did not say during Watson’s opening news conference on Friday whether the organization had directly contacted any of the alleged victims during its independent investigation.
“We as an organization know that this transaction has been very difficult for many people, particularly women in our community, and we are aware that it has sparked a range of emotions which, alongside the nature of the allegations, have all weighed heavily on us “, Berry opened the conference with the words.
“It was really this five month odyssey and the information we were able to gather, the reference book and of course going through due process and the court process that led us to pursue a deal for Deshaun.”
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But Simpson Tuegel disagrees.
“I think without that side of it, it’s not a two-sided investigation… What they really want is to keep these talented athletes in their organization so they make money for them, rather than delving in and at least hitting pause until they.” get to the bottom of what 22 different women are saying.”
She continued, “It has a chilling effect, not just on these women, but on other survivors looking at this truly public case.”
Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry, left, new quarterback Deshaun Watson, center, and head coach Kevin Stefanski pose for a photo during a news conference at the NFL football team’s training facility Friday, March 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio . (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Browns fans are divided over the Watson trade, but many have spoken out against it, which Simpson Tuegel says is a sign that “hopefully times continue to change”.
“I think it speaks to the fact that it’s a different time and that, especially the number of women who have bravely come forward and had to do it in a very public way without being anonymous – that carries weight for a lot of people.” , she called.
“This is not a comfortable process for these women, especially when they have to do it publicly and such a public persona is involved. So I think people are pushing back and Browns fans are standing up speaks to how hopefully times continue to change in terms of how we respond to allegations of sexual misconduct because people have the power, fans have the power to say “There’s nothing more important than the safety of a good person, money, not winning, and the Browns fans are standing up and saying that’s really admirable, especially some of the public figures that have done that.”
Watson answered multiple questions about the validity of those allegations during his first appearance with the Browns on Friday and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.