Legal fate of FSU quarterback Jameis Winston to be answered
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Jameis Winston will learn whether he faces prosecution Thursday when a state attorney finally announces the results of an intensive investigation into sexual assault allegations against the quarterback for top-ranked Florida State.
The alleged incident occurred nearly a year ago, but it wasn’t until last month that Tallahassee police turned over information about the case to prosecutors.
State Attorney Willie Meggs said Wednesday that his office has “exhausted all investigative tools” since the case was handed over in mid-November.
“We have learned as much as we can learn,” said Meggs, who was expected to announce his findings at a 2 p.m. news conference in his offices in the Leon County Courthouse.
In the short time since Meggs’ office took over the case, investigators have taken DNA from Winston, interviewed the victim and looked at other evidence. ESPN reported that DNA found in the accuser’s underwear matched Winston.
But Timothy Jansen, Winston’s attorney, said he expects Meggs will exonerate his client. He has suggested that Winston had consensual sex with the accuser. The accuser’s family has put out a statement saying Winston raped the woman.
“If he looked at evidence we did, we feel confident he will find that Mr. Winston did nothing wrong,” Jansen said.
Jansen is confident enough that he plans to have Winston briefly address the media about the findings at 7 p.m. at the Hotel Duval in downtown Tallahassee, Fla.
Patricia Carroll, the attorney representing the alleged victim, has not responded to requests for comment.
The case against Winston has drawn national attention. The 19-year-old has led the Seminoles to a No. 1 ranking and a shot at a national championship if they defeat Duke this Saturday. Winston’s play at quarterback has also made him a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy.
Many voters are waiting to see whether Winston will be charged with a crime before casting their ballots. The deadline for Heisman ballots to be turned in is Dec. 9.
Florida State policy dictates that a student-athlete is suspended from game action if charged with a felony until the charge is resolved “absent extraordinary circumstances as determined by the administration.”
Meggs has said he wanted to make sure prosecutors completed a thorough investigation before making a final decision. He has also said several times that prosecutors must determine whether there is a “reasonable” chance of conviction.
The fact that Meggs has scheduled a news conference — as opposed to getting a warrant for Winston’s arrest — could be seen as a sign that he will not file charges.
Meggs said Wednesday that the investigation results should answer some lingering questions about how the investigation was handled and why it took 11 months before prosecutors were notified.
“When you all look at this, when the dust all settles, you’ll say, ‘Man, there were some things that could have been done back in December of ’12 that could have cleared this up a whole lot easier than November of 2013,” he said.
The alleged sexual assault was first reported to police on Dec. 7, 2012. The family has said the victim did not know the identity of her attacker until early January, when she identified him as Winston. Police said last week that they tried to interview Winston back in January but that Jansen at the time told them his client would not answer questions.
The family has been sharply critical of the way Tallahassee police have handled the case. The family says they pushed to have a DNA sample taken from Winston only to be told by a police detective that it would alert Winston and make the case public. The family said Carroll was warned by police that Tallahassee is a “big football town, and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.”
Tallahassee police have defended their handling of the case and said it was placed on inactive status in February after police were told the alleged victim did not wish to prosecute the case. Carroll has denied that the woman wanted to drop the investigation.
The alleged victim was an FSU student during the December incident, but she left school after Carroll was told by police that information about the case was about to be released to the media.
Associated Press writer Kareem Copeland contributed to this story.
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