• Matthew F. Tympanick

Deshaun Watson: Blockbuster Trade Piece or Human Trafficker


Image via USA TODAY


As reported by Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston, subpoenas were being sent out by Johna Stallings, Human Trafficking Section Chief for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. That is a story that has already been told. However, the question remains, what does that mean for Deshaun Watson, the Houston Texans, the Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, the always seemingly present mystery team, and the NFL itself? Two months later and we haven’t heard anything. With the NFL Trade Deadline looming on November 2, the Houston Texans reportedly could trade Deshaun Watson any day. However, I am writing to say that decision for any team acquiring Mr. Watson would be very, very unwise. This isn’t like the Trevor Bauer case. Deshaun Watson is in way worse shape.


I can tell you seeing the words Human Trafficking Unit on subpoenas is something Mr. Watson should take very, very serious. The Human Trafficking Unit likely oversees a broad range of sex crimes including Prostitution, Sexual Assault, and obviously Human Trafficking itself. My first thought was solicitation of prostitution. In numerous Complaints, Mr. Watson allegedly solicited his massage therapists to perform various sexual acts on him. Recently, solicitation of prostitution was made a felony in the State of Texas. The legislative intent was likely to deter potential johns if it were from soliciting prostitutes. That is because a vast majority of them are being trafficked. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they were kidnapped out of a Paris penthouse and put up for sale at an international auction on a yacht. Some owe debts to drug dealers and if the drug dealer forces them to engage in sexual relations to pay off said debts, that drug dealer is engaged in human trafficking. Mr. Watson’s alleged solicitation crimes took place before the law was enacted on September 1, 2021, so it is highly unlikely a grand jury would be convened to indict Mr. Watson for a crime that wasn’t even a felony when he allegedly committed them. As stated in previous articles, I was a felony prosecutor during my three years in Sarasota and Manatee County, Florida. If a Division Chief (such as Ms. Stallings) was ever personally responsible for a case, the case was big. It was almost always a case where the office was seeking life in prison or seeking the death penalty. If Ms. Stallings is the one sending out the subpoenas, there is high probability that she will be the one who will presenting the case to the grand jury. If she presents the case to the grand jury and a true bill is returned, she herself would likely be primarily responsible for prosecuting the case. That thinking being is that she herself knows all the intimate details about the cases and she has already established relationships with the alleged victims and law enforcement. However, the District Attorney herself could simply want her best sex crimes prosecutor for a high-profile case. I believe the thinking to be the former.


My second thought for a potential charge was sexual assault and that is still very possible. That is because during my review of the twenty-four lawsuits against Mr. Watson, I found three separate lawsuits where the alleged Plaintiffs claim that Mr. Watson forced his penis into their mouths. Under Texas Law which governs Sexual Assault 22.011(a)(1)(B) which states, “A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly causes the penetration of the mouth of another person by the sexual organ of the actor, without that person’s consent.” That language is exactly what Mr. Watson is to have allegedly done to at least three separate women. That charge is a 2nd degree felony and punishable by no less than two years in prison and not more than twenty. That means if he is convicted, he must serve two years in prison. It is what is often called a minimum mandatory. That is the most likely charge based upon the information available. I recently listened to a podcast and Ms. Stallings talked at length about how she routinely seeks the maximum sentence if the case goes to trial. Thus, if Mr. Watson goes to trial on Sexual Assault case and loses, Ms. Stallings would very likely recommend that Mr. Watson serve twenty years in prison. Would that sentence be imposed? It would depend on the aggravating circumstances of the crimes and any potential mitigation. Sexual Assault is the most likely crime to be charged. However, don’t be surprised if Mr. Watson is charged by a grand jury with a way worse offense, trafficking in persons.


Under Texas Law 20A(4), “Traffic” means to transport, entice, recruit, harbor, provide, or otherwise obtain another person by any means. As seen in various Complaints, Mr. Watson solicited these massage therapists on social media. These alleged massage therapists believed that they were invited to Mr. Watson’s residence to perform professional massages. It was until after they began that they realized Mr. Watson allegedly had other deviant plans. According to Texas Penal Code, human trafficking is when a person knowingly participates: Through force, fraud, or coercion, causes the trafficked person to engage in prohibited conduct, including prostitution, promotion of prostitution, aggravated promotion of prostitution, or compelling prostitution. Thus, an argument can absolutely be made that Mr. Watson enticed those women to come to his house under false pretenses to perform professional massages when he really wanted them to perform sexual acts. He forced them to perform them and then paid after for their compelled services.


If I am an executive with any NFL looking to acquire Deshaun Watson, I am not touching him even if the price is a Conditional 7th Round Pick in 2024. Mr. Watson is more likely to be in a prison cell in the State of Texas than be playing in Super Bowl LVIII in Glendale, Arizona. That is because when a high-ranking prosecutor convenes a grand jury with countless alleged victims all saying very similar facts, it almost never swings the way of the Defendant.