Editors’ note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 gold at https://www.rainn.org.
A Houston Police Department detective who investigated all 10 criminal cases against Deshaun Watson recently tested that she believed the browns quarterback did commit crimes, according to the pretrial deposition transcript obtained by USA Today and Yahoo Sports.
The detective, Kamesha Baker, also said under oath that she did not know why the two grand juries did not indict the former Texans star. A Harris County grand jury returned nine “no” decisions on nine criminal complaints against Watson in March. A Harris County prosecutor said that the decision concluded criminal proceedings against him in that county, and Watson was traded shortly afterward. A grand jury in Brazoria County declined to charge Watson on a 10th count on March 24.
Baker was reportedly not called to testify in front of the Harris County grand jury despite sharing her opinion with the District Attorney’s Office. According to USA TodayBaker felt Watson “committed criminal indecent assault, sexual assault and prostitution in cases where money was exchanged and there was consensual sex.”
Per the documents obtained by the outlets, the detective was asked whether she felt “confident that you had the evidence needed to pursue those charges.” The answer was yes.
Two dozen active civil lawsuits have been filed against Watson, each detailing graphic accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault that occurred during massage therapy sessions. The accounts range from Watson allegedly refusing to cover his genitals to the quarterback “touching [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.” The latest detailed that Watson masturbated and ejaculated on the plaintiff without her consent. And it’s expected that more could be on the horizon.
The 26-year-old has not been charged with a crime and continues to deny the allegations against him.
Tony Buzbee, who represents the plaintiffs, asked Baker whether there was “any disagreement amongst your team or the police that a crime had occurred.” She said “no.” Baker did reportedly testify that some of the cases were stronger than the others, and there were two cases specifically for which she wanted to bring sexual assault charges.
“Two of them we considered sexual assault because of the way the statute is written that speaks specifically to coercion and we felt that there was enough to insinuate that power and influence was in the room and it was coercive,” Baker testified, per USA Today. “And when power and influence is in the room, consent cannot be.”
According to USA Today, Watson’s legal team had issues with Baker’s testimony, such as how she reportedly believed the women from the beginning. Leah Graham, one of the quarterback’s attorneys, said in a statement to the outlet on Friday, “The presumption of innocence is a fundamental tenet of our justice system. It is incredibly unfortunate that this presumption was not given to Deshaun Watson by one of the investigating officers. Ultimately, however, justice was served by two grand juries in two separate jurisdictions who did what this detective refused to do: take a fair and impartial look at all of the evidence before reaching a conclusion.”
When Baker was asked by the quarterback’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, about giving women the benefit of the doubt, the detective tested, “I start by believing all the victims. Absolutely. Stand by that 100%. Anyone investigating a sex crime should start by believing the complainant. Provided defense provides something that refutes it, we’re going to believe that complainant.”
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Hardin followed up by asking, “So in your world of investigation, the defendant always has to prove his innocence?” Baker replied “yes.”
Watson reportedly was not made available for the detective to interview him, but according to Yahoo Sports and USA Today, Baker “didn’t immediately think he was guilty.” She did highlight that there “appeared to be a pattern of an attempt to make the massage session sexual,” specifically citing the fact that Watson would bring his own small towel to sessions, rather than use the large towels provided by the facilities.
Shortly after the Harris County grand jury concluded, Cleveland traded for Watson and signed him to a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million. But there’s a twist to the highest guaranteed contract ever—a clause was built into the contract where Watson will lose only $55,556 for every game he’s suspended this season.
It is still unknown whether Watson will face a fine, a suspension or no punishment after the league’s investigation. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently said that the league is “nearing the end of the investigation,” but no timeline was provided on when the disciplinary officer would issue a ruling. It turns out, though, that there is a key date that could play a role in when the decision will come—June 30.
According to Sports Illustrated‘s Albert Breer, that is the deadline for pretrial discovery in the 24 active civil lawsuits the quarterback is facing. Breer wrote that “in the 2020 CBA, the NFL ceded the initial decision-making on discipline to a neutral arbitrator. And if you’re thinking like an ex-US district court judge would, it stands to reason that you’d want as much information as possible before rendering a decision.” Breer’s belief is that the decision will likely come in July.
Buzbee released a statement last week stating that he plans to add the Texans and “others” as defendants to the ongoing civil lawsuits filed against Watson, which came days after a bombshell report from The New York Times.
The investigation that found Watson booked sessions with at least 66 different women for massage therapy sessions in the span of 17 months. Additionally, the Times‘ Jenny Vrentas revealed that a Houston spa and the Texans reportedly “enabled” Watson’s massage habit, specifically that the franchise provided nondisclosure agreements and facilities for his sessions. The team, though, said in a March 2021 statement that it “became aware of a civil lawsuit involving Deshaun Watson through a social media post.” It later added, “This is the first time we heard of the matter.”
The quarterback previously said that to his knowledge, the franchise was not aware of the massage therapy sessions at the hotel, per Vrentas. However, one woman said she was told the room where she gave the then Texans quarterback a massage was registered to a member of the team’s training staff.
The investigation also found that Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, and the prosecutors at the district attorney’s office on the QB’s criminal cases had extensive contact leading up to the two grand juries.
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