Florida State University star quarterback Jameis Winston will not be charged with rape, Florida State’s Attorney Willie Meggs announced Thursday, citing “insufficient evidence” that a sexual assault had occurred last year.
“I know there was a sexual event that occurred,” Meggs said. “One party said it was consensual, the other party said it wasn’t. [We] did not feel we had sufficient evidence to go forward to trial to prove it was not consensual.”
Winston’s lawyer, Tim Jansen, told The Daily Beast prior to the announcement that he expected no charges would be filed. “I think the evidence in this case is clear that Mr. Winston did nothing wrong in December,” Jensen said.
Meggs said there were “several people in the room” at the time of the alleged incident, and the victim supposedly had a blood alcohol level of .04, despite insistence from the victim’s lawyer that she had not been intoxicated. Meggs also said DNA was found on the victim’s shorts from another, unidentified man, thus making identification of sexual assault difficult. DNA from Winston, who voluntarily submitted to testing, was also found on the victim’s underwear.
“Her recall of the events of that night have been going around a good bit,” Meggs said. “There were some memory lapses, there were some major issues … we found no evidence of any kind of major impairment.”
Winston is the star quarterback of the undefeated Seminoles, who will head to the ACC championship on Saturday against Duke University. According to FSU’s code of conduct, Winston would not be eligible to play in Saturday’s game if he had been charged with a felony. Winston is also one of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy, which is set to be announced on December 14 in New York.
When asked if athletes get special treatment, Meggs insisted “I don’t think they do, and we try to treat everyone the same.”
Meggs insisted the timing of the case was not driven by the football schedule, and said that the case would have gone smoother if “we had all gotten involved earlier.”
A 19-year-old unidentified FSU student filed a sexual assault complaint after the alleged incident occurred on December 7, 2012. She did not immediately name a suspect, and instead named Winston a few weeks later. The Tallahassee police told Winston’s lawyer that the case was “basically closed” in February, saying the victim stopped speaking to them. But an attorney for the victim’s family, Patricia Carroll, said DNA was not taken from Winston until months later. The case resurfaced in November, with police spokesman Dave Northway refusing to cite any specifics, but saying a case would be made active if new information had been released.
UPDATE: Giving a press conference after Meggs’s announcement, Jansen said Winston is “absolutely innocent” and he’s “relieved it’s over.”
“I hope it’s closed, but there will always be people who think of Mr. Winston and think of this allegation and you can’t stop people from believing what they want to believe,” Jansen said. “Our society says you are innocent until proven guilty, and he wasn’t even charged.” Jansen also said they are considering legal action against the alleged victim for false accusations. While Jansen did not give any reason why he thought Winston’s accuser would name him, he did say “sometimes people target these athletes.”
As FSU fans photobombed the press conference (and shouted “go Jameis!”), a reporter also asked if there is any truth the reports that the victim had ties to FSU’s archrivals, the University of Alabama. Jansen did not answer
Carroll said the victim had been told by police that “Tallahassee is a big football town,” and she should “think long and hard before proceeding” with accusations against Winston.
The victim’s family released a statement via Carroll after Meggs’ announcement. “The victim in this case had the courage to immediately report her rape to the police and she relied upon them to seek justice. The victim has grave concerns that her experience, as it unfolded in the public eye and through social media, will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward.”
The victim has currently taken a leave of absence from FSU, and her sorority house allegedly received a bomb threats from “enraged fans who believe it is a plot to derail the championship, according to the Daily Mail.