Depositions for two more lawsuits were scheduled for Tuesday.
Almost exactly one year ago, Ashley Solis, a 28-year-old licensed massage therapist, filed the first lawsuit against Watson, saying that he purposely touched her hand with his erect and exposed penis during a March 2020 massage appointment at her home. Over the ensuing weeks, similar allegations against one of professional football’s brightest young stars piled up at a stunning pace.
Watson has denied any wrongdoing, and Hardin has said any sexual acts that happened during massage appointments were consensual.
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The fact that the grand jury decision, which would not have determined guilt or innocence, held such importance for those involved reflected the stakes of the case. The women who were subpoenaed to the grand jury on Friday wanted their accounts of misconduct against a star athlete to be taken seriously. And Watson sought not just to be cleared of wrongdoing, but to position himself to be traded from the Texans in order to resume his NFL career with a different team.
The NFL’s free agency period opens on March 16, the day the league’s new year starts.
Watson, one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks, has not played in a game since the final week of the 2020 regular season. Disenchanted with the Texans after a desultory 4-12 season amid front office dysfunction, Watson requested a trade. But the effort to resolve the rift between Watson and the franchise took a back seat to the avalanche of lawsuits filed last March that accused Watson of sexual misconduct.
Since then he has been in NFL limbo. The league opened its own investigation but did not opt to punish Watson or sideline him, in part because he had not been criminally charged. In a statement after the grand jury declined to indict Watson, an NFL spokesman said the matter “remains under review of the personal conduct policy.”
The Texans said in a statement last March that they would “continue to take this and all matters involving anyone within the Houston Texans organization seriously” and that the team would not comment further until the league’s investigation had ended, a process with no public timeline.
Watson participated in the team’s training camp held last summer, at risk of being fined $50,000 per missed day. The Texans chose to leave him on the inactive list for the entire 2021 season, moving forward with Davis Mills and Tyrod Taylor as their quarterbacks, again winning just four games.
David Montgomery contributed reporting from Houston.