When the Cleveland Browns traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson, they did so knowing that he still had several legal hurdles in front of him. Watson had safely cleared the criminal hurdle when two separate county grand juries in Texas, declined to indict him on criminal charges, based upon allegations of sexual misconduct made by a number of massage therapists. The second hurdle that Watson must clear is the 25 civil suits filed against him claiming improper sexual conduct. Although Watson does NOT face possible criminal penalties such as prison time, probation or fines, he still faces claims for monetary damages, which may be significant. ESPN recently reported that 20 of the current 25 lawsuits have been settled for undisclosed amounts. The remaining lawsuits could be resolved in a civil trial sometime in 2023. Meanwhile, Watson faces the final hurdle of discipline by the NFL for violating its personal conduct policy. That penalty could range anywhere from a several game suspension, to a suspension for the entire 2022 season, or even an indefinite suspension, which would require Watson to petition the NFL for reinstatement after completing any terms and conditions mandated by the league. The league penalty will be decided by an independent fact finder. This penalty is subject to final review by the NFL Commissioner, and can be appealed by Watson and the players union.
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