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Grand Jury To Hear Evidence Against Deshaun Watson On Friday

Another potential big step is coming this week.

Houston Texans vs New England Patriots Set Number: X161330 TK1

As the inevitable march of time towards April 1st continues, this Friday (March 11th) marks a big day in the Deshaun Watson legal timeline. A grand jury will listen to evidence presented for and against the embattled quarterback about current legal matters involving accusations of sexual misconduct from at least 22 women.

For a full background on Watson’s legal scenario as of last year, check out Steph Stradley’s FAQ here.

The New York Times:

Women who filed sexual misconduct complaints against Watson, the Houston Texans quarterback, last year have been subpoenaed to give testimony on Friday in Houston, their lawyer said.

Search warrants issued in October in connection with the Houston police investigation, seeking access to the social media and Cash App accounts police said Watson used to book and pay for massages, named indecent assault as the crime being investigated. Indecent assault is a class A misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000, while sexual assault is a second-degree felony.

ESPN’s John Barr further unpacked this news yesterday.

The grand jury process does not require a unanimous vote. If nine of the 12 grand jurors return what’s known as a “true bill” under Texas law, Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Kim Ogg could then opt to proceed with a criminal case against Watson, [Watson’s attorney Rusty] Hardin said.

The range of potential criminal charges Watson faces include indecent assault, assault and harassment, all misdemeanor offenses. He could also be charged with the more serious sexual assault, a second-degree felony in Texas, punishable by two-to-20 years in prison.

While this all seems like progress towards a resolution, Texas state law provides a timeline for the grand jury to reach a decision.

Houston Criminal Firm.com

A grand jury is an essential part of criminal proceedings. In felony cases, prosecutors use grand juries to determine whether to charge a defendant in a criminal case. Although most 50 states use this process in felony cases, only some make it a requirement before prosecution. Texas happens to be one of the states that require a defendant to be indicted by a grand jury to bring about a criminal proceeding.

A grand jury... is used before filing charges against a defendant. The grand jury determines whether or not the state has probable cause to bring on those charges. The finding of the grand jury helps begin the process of criminal proceedings.

ESPN:

While a decision on criminal charges could come as early as Friday, Watson will face several days of depositions in the 22 pending civil cases, as each of the plaintiff’s in those cases can question him for up to two hours, Hardin said.

Rusty Hardin:

I’m not going to let him answer questions from anybody before that grand jury has made its decision. There’s not a lawyer in the country that would. Once the grand jury process is concluded we intend for him to start answering questions in depositions.

No one wants this to drag on longer than necessary, except perhaps the attorneys who profit from long legal battles via the billable hour. As for the rest of us, Friday may not bring the end to all this, though it could be a significant step towards an ending.

In criminal proceedings, the double jeopardy rule applies; the government cannot try the accused twice for the same crime. In the case of a grand jury, however, if they come back and deem this case lacks the merit to proceed to a full criminal trial, a prosecutor can still bring it all before the grand jury again in the hopes of achieving a different outcome. So if the grand jury does not believe the prosecutors have met their burden on Friday, it doesn’t necessarily mean Watson is out of the woods from a criminal perspective.

If the grand jury does believe the state has met its burden and Watson is indicted, the Texans’ attempts to trade the quarterback could certainly become much more complicated, including but not limited to grinding that process to a halt, notwithstanding all the other quarterback movement yesterday.