Lawyer: Deshaun Watson lawsuit may have different outcome than criminal case, trade has ‘chilling effect’

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Two grand juries in Texas refused to bring criminal charges against the former Houston Texans strategist Deshaun Watson which was traded earlier this month at Cleveland Browns — a deal that has since raised questions about the organization’s decision to bring him in despite 22 ongoing civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and harassment.

But a prominent Texas-based criminal lawyer who specializes in sexual abuse cases, believes these civil cases will shed light on victims’ claims.

Michelle Simpson Tuegel, who has represented victims of sexual abuse and assault in high-profile cases such as the Larry Nassar litigation, told Fox News Digital in an interview on Tuesday that she was not shocked by the rulings. of the Harris County and Brazoria County grand juries not to bring charges against Watson and that the outcome of these cases will not necessarily be the same in civil proceedings.

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“I think where people are really missing some things is that the criminal process generally fails adult survivors and the burden of proof in a criminal case is much higher than in a civil case or in an administrative investigation. – like what the NFL conducted or what schools conduct for on-campus sexual assault — a similar type of administrative investigation into sexual misconduct,” Simpson Tuegel explained.

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.

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 prosecutions, so these allegations don’t hold any weight’ and I see in my daily practice that that’s not the case.”

Simpson Tuegel said about 80% of the victims she represents in civil proceedings have not faced any criminal charges. She pointed to one of her recent cases in Harris County where the defendant was not indicted by a grand jury despite ‘overwhelming evidence’, but the victim in her case was ultimately awarded $44 million in in a civil trial.

“The burden and evidence required for the civil suit is different.”

Simpson Tuegel said civil cases could take months and “sometimes it takes years” to unfold, which could happen in Watson’s situation.

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In the meantime, she expressed concern about how the Browns and the NFL have handled Watson’s trade, arguing it sends a “scary” message to victims of sexual assault.

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski speaks during a press conference introducing quarterback Deshaun Watson at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on March 25, 2022 in Berea, Ohio.

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski speaks during a press conference introducing quarterback Deshaun Watson at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on March 25, 2022 in Berea, Ohio.
(Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

“What we have seen over the years is unfortunately a repeated pattern of the NFL favoring athletes over victims and I think especially in this MeToo or post-MeToo era, the NFL is trying to some extent to save face by making it look like they’re investigating and so their decisions and his $230 million contract are OK but I think what’s missing is that investigation and even by their admission that doesn’t include a speak in depth with the victims.

Simpson Tuegel was referring to comments by Browns general manager Andrew Berry, who did not say at Watson’s introductory press conference on Friday whether the organization had contacted any of the alleged victims directly during his independent investigation.

“As an organization, we know this transaction has been very difficult for many people, especially women in our community, and we realize it has triggered a range of emotions which, as well as the nature of the allegations , weighed heavily on all of us,” Berry said as he opened the conference.

“It’s really through this five-month odyssey and the information we’ve been able to amass, the benchmark work, and obviously the respect for due process and due process, that has put us at ease going forward. a trade for Deshaun.”

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But Simpson Tuegel disagrees.

“I think without that aspect of it, it’s not a two-sided investigation… What they really want to do is keep these talented athletes in their organization, make money for them rather than dig in and press pause at least until they can get to the bottom of what 22 different women are saying.”

She continued: “It has a chilling effect, not only on these women, but on other survivors looking into this really public matter.”

Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry, left, new quarterback Deshaun Watson, center, and head coach Kevin Stefanski pose for a photo during a press conference at the team's practice facility NFL football, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.

Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry, left, new quarterback Deshaun Watson, center, and head coach Kevin Stefanski pose for a photo during a press conference at the team’s practice facility NFL football, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.
(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Browns fans have been divided on the Watson trade, but many have come out against it, which Simpson Tuegel says is a sign that “hopefully times are continuing to change.”

“I think it shows that it’s a different time and that, in particular the number of women who bravely came forward and had to do it very publicly without being anonymous – that carries weight for a lot of people,” she mentioned.

“It’s not a pleasant process for these women, especially when they have to do it publicly and with such a public person connected to it. So I think people are pushing back and Browns fans are standing up to show how hopefully times continue to change in terms of how we respond to sexual misconduct allegations as far as people have the power fans have the power to say nothing is more important than the safety of a benign human being, the money, not winning and the Browns fans who stand up and say it’s truly admirable, especially some of the public figures who have done it.”

Watson answered several questions about the validity of those allegations during his first appearance with the Browns on Friday and repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

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