Deshaun Watson will plead Fifth in civil deposition Friday as criminal probe is presented to Houston grand jury

Two key steps in the criminal investigation into Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson are scheduled to unfold Friday, attorneys in the case told Yahoo Sports.

Watson is slated for his first deposition in the sexual misconduct civil lawsuits brought against him, with the quarterback’s legal camp preparing him to plead the Fifth in testimony. It's happening just as the Harris County District Attorney’s Office begins presenting evidence to a Houston grand jury in Watson’s criminal investigation.

It's a major intersection between two legal paths that have stretched out for nearly one year, following the filing of 22 civil lawsuits against Watson beginning March of 2021.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson before an NFL football game against the New England Patriots Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Deshaun Watson is facing civil lawsuits and a criminal investigation for alleged sexual misconduct. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Now there should be at least partial clarity in Watson’s legal future, as the grand jury proceedings are expected to produce a decision on whether to indict the quarterback for felony sexual assault.

While the two proceedings aren’t directly tied to each other, Watson’s legal camp had tried to hold off all of his depositions in the civil cases until after the grand jury's decision on a criminal indictment. The reasoning, presented in court by Watson’s defense attorney Rusty Hardin, was to avoid any chance of overlap in Watson’s testimony that could impact the grand jury proceedings. A judge rebuffed Hardin’s efforts and Watson’s deposition schedule was ordered to continue, resulting in Friday’s parallel proceedings.

Hardin says it will culminate in Watson pleading the Fifth in all of his deposition appearances until there is a resolution in the grand jury proceeding. The Fifth Amendment protects a person from being compelled in a legal proceeding to testify as a witness against themselves.

Hardin told Yahoo Sports he is advising Watson to decline to answer questions in an effort to limit information in the civil cases being used in the grand jury proceeding.

“The pleading of the Fifth is at my insistence — not Deshaun’s,” Hardin said. “No lawyer in America would allow his client to answer questions in a civil suit while the same facts and cases are being considered at the same time by a grand jury. I asked [opposing counsel] Tony Buzbee to delay [the deposition] by one day and I would be glad to let Deshaun answer questions once the grand jury completed its investigation. He refused because he wants to create a misimpression in the eyes of the public. Giving a deposition during a grand jury investigation is a nonstarter. We will be glad to give one once the criminal investigation is completed.”

Messages left for the Harris County District Attorney and Buzbee were not immediately returned Tuesday.

It’s unknown how long prosecutors will take presenting evidence to the grand jury or whether it will be limited to Friday’s proceedings. However, lawyers involved in the proceedings told Yahoo Sports that “multiple” witnesses will be called for testimony, including some of the 10 women who filed civil lawsuits and criminal complaints against Watson. Evidence collected by the Houston Police Department in the case will also be presented to the grand jury. However, Watson will not be asked to make an appearance before the grand jury, with the indictment ultimately resting on whether jurors believe there is enough evidence and compelling testimony presented to indict Watson for a crime.

If that happens, Watson will be forced to plea to the indictment and his criminal case will move forward. Conversely, if jurors do not vote for an indictment, Watson will be released from the criminal complaints as they are presented in the current proceeding and he will continue forward with his civil cases.

A decision on an indictment could come as soon as Friday.