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Grand jury is poised to hear Deshaun Watson evidence on Friday

Steve Wyche explains how the status of lawsuits against Deshaun Watson affects teams' willingness to trade for him.

Nearly a year after the first lawsuit against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson began, a grand jury is poised to hear evidence in the criminal investigation sparked by 22 civil complaints that ultimately were filed.

Jenny Vrentas and Juliet Macur of the New York Times report that several women who have made criminal complaints against Watson for misconduct during massage therapy sessions have received subpoenas to testify on Friday, according to their lawyer, Tony Buzbee.

Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, told the Times that he is “delighted” that the grand jury will be addressing the matter on Friday, and that he hopes that a decision will be made that day.
“The free agency time is around the corner and we’ve wanted this decision to be made by then and it looks like they’re going to and I’m welcoming it,” Hardin told the Times. “There’s never been any crime here, no matter if you call it indecent assault or anything else. These are civil matters that belong in the civil courts.”

Watson also is scheduled to testify on Friday in the civil cases filed by plaintiffs who did not file criminal complaints against Watson. Hardin told the Times that Watson will invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when testifying at a deposition convened by Buzbee.

A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that Buzbee refused to delay the deposition until Monday, given the possibility that the criminal cases will be concluded on Friday. The source also said that Hardin does not plan to seek intervention from the presiding judge to delay the deposition. Previously, the judge gave Hardin a mixed ruling that the depositions can proceed in the cases that don’t involve a criminal complaint, and that he’ll testify later in the cases that have criminal complaints pending.

Obviously, Hardin doesn’t want Watson to testify at all in the civil cases while the possibility of criminal prosecution is pending, since anything Watson says in the civil cases could then be used by the prosecutor within the confines of criminal charges.

It’s unknown whether the prosecutor will be inclined to push for one or more indictments of Watson. As the saying goes, a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. This is a product of the one-sided nature of the presentation of evidence. Conversely, a prosecutor can not indict a ham sandwich, if the prosecutor decides during secret proceedings to not press aggressively for charges.

As the quarterback carousel suddenly begins to spin, the possibility of Watson emerging from the current week with no criminal charges could set the stage for a long-awaited trade. The decision of Aaron Rodgers to stay put and the trade of Russell Wilson to the Broncos makes Watson the top available quarterback, for anyone seeking a veteran upgrade.