Almost one year after Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of sexual assault by a female FSU student, State Attorney William Meggs announced that no charges will be filed.
The alleged incident occurred on December 7, 2012 when a female student apparently met Winston at Potbelly’s, a Tallahassee bar. According to police reports, the 19-year old student got in a cab with Winston and two of his teammates, Chris Casher and Ronald Darby, who all went back to Winston and Casher’s off-campus apartment. Once at the apartment, Darby and Casher say they cracked open Winston’s bedroom door and witnessed him and the female student having sex.
Later that night, after being dropped off at her dorm by Winston, the accuser called police and reported that she had been raped by an unknown male suspect. By February 2013 the case had been suspended based on a lack of probable cause. The Tallahassee Police (TPD) Department cited that the accused’s recollection was both spotty and inconsistent. She was also unsure about whether she wanted to pursue criminal charges.
What seemed to be a dead case suddenly came to life eleven months later on November 12, 2013 when an unnamed media source inquired about the investigation and requested reports pertaining to the case from TPD. TPD decided to notify the Office of the State Attorney about the request and after discussing the case at length, their office made the decision to investigate further.
Two days later Winston consented to providing a DNA sample and a match was found on the underwear the accuser wore on the night of the alleged incident. Despite this, Winston has never denied that he and the accuser had a sexual encounter and maintains that it was consensual. While Winston’s DNA was found on the accuser’s clothing – his wasn’t the only DNA discovered. According to a TPD report made public yesterday, a second person’s DNA was discovered on the shorts the accuser wore the night of the incident – that of her boyfriend at the time. This, State Attorney William Meggs admitted, definitely hurt any potential case against Winston.
Another problem with a potential case against Winston was the inconsistency of the accuser’s account of the night the alleged sexual assault occurred. For example, when interviewed by police she reported that she “blacked out” due to consuming as many as eight alcoholic beverages at Potbelly’s bar. Despite this account, she also called multiple friends soon after the incident, one of whom told police the accuser stated that she was at a party and had been hit on the head.
A toxicology report of the accuser’s blood some hours after the incident showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.04%, but there was no sign of any other drug. Investigators surmised that her BAC was probably around 0.10% at the time of the incident, slightly above the legal limit to drive. Winston’s attorney was quick to point out that 0.10% is not a BAC at which someone would fail to recall where they had been or what they had done.
In the end, there simply wasn’t enough conclusive evidence to bring a case against Winston. “We have a duty as prosecutors to determine if each case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” said State Attorney William Megg. “After reviewing the facts in this case, we do not feel that we can reach those burdens.”
Surely, Florida State fans are breathing a collective sigh of relief at the news. In just his first season of play, Winston, a Heisman trophy hopeful, has guided FSU to an undefeated season and a No. 1 national ranking. As long as the Noles can survive Saturday’s ACC Championship clash against Duke, they’ll be punching a ticket to the BCS National Championship in January.
Would the outcome have been different if the investigation would have been conducted in a more thorough fashion from December – February? Does it matter that Winston is a football star with a bright future? Did TPD sweep this under the rug as a favor to the University? Was the alleged victim intoxicated to the point of being incapable to consent to a sexual act? Did State Attorney William Megg act inappropriately at the press conference announcing the outcome? Did he need to conduct a press conference at all? Many other questions loom in the background.
Regardless of the impact on a football season or football game, the real question for all of us to answer is whether or not justice was served. One could argue that there is a need for increased education to young college students. We must remember they are teenagers and young adults away from home without legitimate supervision, often for the first time in their lives. When alcohol is involved, impaired judgment takes over and the consequences can be grave.