Just minutes after becoming the youngest Heisman winner in history, Jameis Winston smiled through his acceptance speech.
“This Heisman isn’t just for Jameis Winston, it’s for Florida State,” he said.
The comment was, sadly, a little too on-the nose, given the reaction to the recent rape allegations against FSU’s star quarterback. A little more than a week earlier, the State Attorney for Florida, Willie Meggs, announced he would not be bringing charges against Winston.
“I knew I did nothing wrong,” Winston said in a press conference on Friday before the ceremony. “That’s why I knew I could respect the process and I’d eventually be vindicated.” But Winston’s handlers cut short the interview after a number of questions about the rape investigation.
The same day, Patricia Carroll, the Tampa attorney for the family of Winston’s accuser, gave a 90-minute press conference where she railed against the Tallahassee police department’s investigation. “It appears to me to be a complete failure of an investigation of a rape case,” Carroll said. “This was an investigation of a rape victim, not an investigation of a rape suspect.”
Carroll called for an independent investigation of the case as well as the Tallahassee police department, but a spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott told the Tallahassee Democrat that a “thorough investigation” had been completed by the State Attorney’s office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and “no further action is required.” An investigation of an elected official such as Meggs would have to be initiated by an elected official, according to the Democrat.
Carroll suggested the “politics of football” may have played a role in the dismissal of the case. It’s not a totally wild assessment, given that the police reportedly told the victim after she first named Winston as a suspect in January that she should think “long and hard before proceeding” against Winston. “Tallahassee is a big football town,” Detective Scott Angulo allegedly told her.
The alleged assault occurred on December 7, 2012. Winston, whose DNA was reportedly found in the victim’s underwear, has insisted he and the victim had consensual sex. Another man’s DNA was also reportedly found on the victim, and seemingly belonged to the victim’s boyfriend, with whom she had consensual sex the night before.
"That DNA [from the boyfriend] was from a time well in advance of the attack, yet that was the focus of the State Attorney,” said Carroll at the press conference.
According to the police report that the victim filed, the assault allegedly occured between 1 and 2 a.m., after the victim and Winston left a local bar, Pot Belly’s, in a cab. She told police she had been intoxicated, although bloodwork later indicated she had not been drinking. According to later documents released by police, the victim suffered a head injury. Carroll said her confusion, memory loss, and later headache is consistent with someone who had been given a “date-rape drug.”
According to the police report, the victim named the suspect as being between 5’9” to 5’11” feet tall (several inches shorter than Winston), and she said she had been taken home by her alleged assailant on a black scooter. Winston’s attorney has insisted his client does not own any black scooter. The victim called police around 4 a.m.
She named Winston as a suspect in January, but police did not immediately administer a DNA test to Winston, according to Carroll. Carroll alleges the sexual assault kit and the toxicology samples were not submitted to FDLE until January 17, one month after the alleged assault. Further, Carroll said, the police have not given any indication that they interviewed the cab driver or have gotten any surveillance footage from Pot Belly’s.
Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen, said in February that he was told the case was “basically closed,” which police said happened after the victim stopped talking to them. The case gathered steam again in November, before Meggs officially announced on December 5 that there would be no charges filed.
But, in the end, the rape allegation apparently didn’t matter for the Heisman voting. Despite worries that the news of the allegation hit just before the crux of the voting—and before a game against FSU’s archrivals University of Florida and the ACC championship—Winston won in a landslide: 668 votes out of 900 total. The closest runner-up was Alabama’s AJ McCarron, who received just 79 votes. Last year’s winner, Johnny Manziel, only had 30 votes. The majority of this year’s voting occurred when the case was in the national spotlight.
“I really believe that people actually just trusted me,” Winston said. “People obviously saw us play. But that comes from my team too.”