When Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston exited the field after Saturday’s game, the crowd chanted “Ja-meis! Ja-meis!” The Seminoles had just beat Idaho 80-14, and Winston was a top contender for the Heisman trophy.
But all was not status quo for Winston. Off the field, he faced allegations of sexual assault in a case that first came to light 11 months ago. The accusations bubbled to the surface again earlier this month, and the Florida State’s Attorney’s office has said they will likely decide whether or not to charge Winston in two weeks’ time—after the ACC championship and after the Heisman voting has concluded. Winston’s lawyer has said his client engaged in consensual sex with the alleged victim but says the rape allegations are false.
The alleged incident occurred on December 7, 2012, between 1:30 and 2 am at an off-campus apartment, according to police reports. The victim had apparently been drinking, though bloodwork later showed she was not legally intoxicated. She called police at 4 a.m. and filed the report within an hour. Photos were taken at the scene, and police administered a sexual assault kit. The victim identified the suspect as being 5’9” and 5’11” feet tall—several inches shorter than Winston—but she allegedly identified the star quarterback as the prime suspect in early January.
According to a statement supplied to The Daily Beast by the victim’s lawyer, Tampa lawyer Patricia Carroll, the victim became concerned that she would be targeted on campus, as Winston is one of FSU’s—and all of college football’s—biggest stars. Detective Scott Angulo reportedly then told Carroll that “Tallahassee is a big football town,” and the victim “need[ed] to think long and hard before proceeding against him,” according to a statement by Carroll. The detective also allegedly refused to test Winston’s DNA at the time, according to Carroll. Tallahassee police spokesman Dave Northway refused to comment on the detective’s alleged comments, or the DNA testing, saying the case is an “open and active investigation.”
The victim allegedly named Winston as a suspect on January 10, according to a police statement. The following day, Carroll contacted the Tallahassee police and said all contact would have to come through the attorney, police said. On the week of January 14, the Tallahassee police investigator made contact with Winston and requested an interview, according to Northway’s statement.
On January 23, Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen, told the Tallahassee police that his client did not wish to be interviewed, according to police reports. Jansen has said he was told in February that the case was “basically closed.” Tallahassee police say they made the case inactive after the victim stopped talking them—a claim that Carroll has denied. Carroll said the victim was awaiting the results of the blood work, which came back in April. Carroll also has claimed Winston’s DNA was not collected until recently. Winston’s roommate also reportedly witnessed the alleged assault, according to media reports but Carroll has claimed he was not immediately questioned.
According to an alleged email from city manager Anita Favors Thompson, obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, the case stalled when the victim “changed her mind.” Favors Thompson said she was working with the Tallahassee Police Department because she expected the case would “have national impact.” Favors Thompson’s office directed all requests for information on the Winston case back to the police.
The case bubbled up again in November as college football championships loomed. Northway said a case would become active again if they had received new information.
Winston reportedly volunteered to have his DNA tested last week, and his lawyer, Tim Jansen, confirmed that Winston’s DNA was found to match the DNA found on the victim’s underwear. Jansen insisted that though the pair did have sex, it was consensual—which the victim has denied through her attorney.
“To be clear, the victim did not consent,” said the victim’s attorney, Patricia Carroll, in a statement. “This was rape.”
Tallahassee police chief Tom Coe said in a statement on Wednesday that “sexual battery cases are some of the most difficult to investigate as they are unique and personal in nature.” Coe said the case is still an active investigation.
Winston is one of the three biggest college football stars at the moment. A Hueytown, Alabama native, he was the nation’s top high school quarterback in 2012 and was recruited to play for the Seminoles. He was also a top baseball player, but chose to pursue college football as his primary sport. Redshirted in his freshman year, Winston was starting quarterback this season at Florida State—and led the Seminoles to one of their best seasons. FSU is currently ranked second in their division, BCS, and are 9-0 for the season. In Saturday’s game against Idaho, Winston threw 225 yards for four touchdowns.
Winston is considered one of the top four contenders for this year’s Heisman Trophy, along with Boston College’s Andre Williams, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (last year’s winner) and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron. According to a USA Today poll released on Monday, Winston leads the field. The Heisman voters were mailed ballots on Monday, and they’ll be due back in two weeks.
But FSU’s student code of conduct prevents any athlete from participating if charged with a felony, “absent extraordinary circumstances as determined by the administration.” FSU has one regular season game left, against their archrivals, the University of Florida, on Saturday. On December 7, the Seminoles will play the Dr. Pepper ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. Fans have been decidedly outraged about the allegations: In one post on Tumblr before the Saturday game, a student had posted, “This just in: Another thirsty woman trying to ruin another man’s career.”
In the meantime, the alleged victim has withdrawn from FSU, although Carroll said she hopes to work out an arrangement for her finals.