With criminal investigation still pending, Deshaun Watson fails to delay testifying in civil case
With his criminal case unresolved and his civil cases developing to the point at which it otherwise would be time to question him under oath in a deposition, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has a problem. Anything he says while testifying in the civil cases can be used against him in the criminal case.
As a result, the lawyers handling the 22 civil cases went to court on Monday, squabbling over whether Watson’s deposition will be delayed until the criminal case is resolved. Radio host Mike Meltser, an attorney, posted updates from the proceedings on Twitter.
Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the women who have sued Watson for sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions, wants to proceed with the questioning of Watson, regardless of the status of the criminal cases. Attorney Rusty Hardin, who represents Watson, wants to delay the process until after the criminal process has ended. Hardin said in court that he expects a grand jury to conclude its work by April 1.
The presiding judge found a middle ground. For those plaintiffs who have filed criminal complaints, Watson will testify after April 1. For all other plaintiffs, he’ll testify when Hardin is available. (Hardin currently is handling a trial in a different case.)
That’s not ideal for Watson. The things he says while being questioned in the cases filed by plaintiffs who haven’t made criminal complaints could be used by the prosecutor in the other cases, if the prosecutor so chooses. Moreover, Watson’s testimony could prompt the prosecutor to exercise the broad discretion inherent to the job in a way that results in an attempt to secure an indictment on one or more felony charges.
The timeline also makes it harder to trade Watson before other teams begin making decisions about who their quarterbacks will be for 2022. The best seats could be filled before the criminal process ends.
There’s one more important point to keep in mind. Watson doesn’t have to settle all of the cases at the same time. He could try to settle the cases that don’t include criminal complaints, if he wants. However, Buzbee and his clients now have even more leverage, since settlement of those claims becomes the ticket to delaying being questioned under oath until April 1, at the earliest.