Prosecutor: No charges against Heisman contender Winston
Tallahassee, Fla. • A prosecutor has decided no charges will be filed against Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender Jameis Winston.
State Attorney Willie Meggs made the announcement Thursday.
"There is a burden of proof, and we don't feel like we could meet that burden," said Meggs, who added that the evidence was "carefully examined."
A woman had accused Winston of sexual assault, telling police she was raped at an apartment after a night of drinking at a bar, according to a search warrant released Thursday.
"We try to treat everybody the same, and I think we have a record of doing that," Meggs said when asked if football players are treated differently from others who are accused of a crime.
"We were not pressured by the football program or anyone else. We did not consult the football schedule. We worked as fast as we could in the time constraints that we had," Meggs added.
In the warrant from last December, the alleged victim told police she and friends had five to six shots at Potbellys and her "memory is very broken from that point forward." She said she remembered being in a cab with a "non-descript" black man and going into an apartment where she was raped. The woman didn't identify Winston, who is black, until about a month after the alleged assault a year ago.
The warrant said she tried to fight the man off, and at some point, another man came into the room and told him to stop. But the two went into a bathroom "where he completed the act."
Her next memory was of the suspect dressing her, putting her on a scooter and dropping her off at a campus intersection. She said she had no idea where the alleged assault took place.
The details of the alleged rape were contained in a search warrant for cellphone records, including text messages. The warrant said the woman sent multiple text messages after the alleged assault, but it did not say what they said.
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 Winston's attorney, Timothy Jansen, has suggested Winston had consensual sex with the accuser and he expected the prosecutor to exonerate his client.
"If he looked at evidence we did, we feel confident he will find that Mr. Winston did nothing wrong," Jansen said before Meggs announced no charges will be filed.
Jansen planned to have Winston briefly address the media later Thursday.
Patricia Carroll, the attorney representing the alleged victim, has not responded to requests for comment. Her office was expected to release a brief statement later.
Winston, 19, has led the Seminoles to a No. 1 ranking and a shot at a national championship if they defeat Duke on Saturday.
Many voters were waiting to see whether Winston would be charged with a crime before casting their ballots. The deadline for ballots is Monday, and the trophy is awarded Dec. 14.
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 had 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 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. They said 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 woman making the accusation was an FSU student, but she left school last month 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.
Follow Gary Fineout on Twitter: http://twitter.com/fineout.
See more about comments here.