Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will not be charged with sexual assault, state attorney Willie Meggs announced Thursday.
“We have a duty as prosecution to only file those charges if we have a reasonable likelihood of a conviction,” Meggs said Thursday. “After reviewing all the events we did not feel we could meet that burden.”
Meggs’ investigation concluded three weeks after reports surfaced that a woman told police she was raped by Winston last winter. A sexual encounter did occur, Meggs said, though he said his investigation didn’t find enough evidence to prove it was not consensual.
Winston’s DNA matched evidence from the day of the incident, though Winston’s Tallahassee-based attorney, Tim Jansen, has argued the encounter between the FSU quarterback and the accuser was consensual. The accuser’s family has denied that claim, and in a statement released last month said the accuser was told by Tallahassee police she would be “raked over the coals” for accusing an FSU player of rape.
Meggs stopped short of criticizing the Tallahassee Police Department for not initially pursuing the case, though said some things would’ve been easier for him had he been able to conduct his investigation last December or January, as opposed to a year after the incident.
“Obviously it would’ve been better if it had been handled a little different, a little earlier,” Meggs said. “But hindsight’s always 20/20.”
A search warrant was released to the public prior to Meggs’ announcement, in which details of the accusation are revealed (via the Associated Press):
In the warrant, 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 alleged assault took place about a year ago. The woman didn’t identify Winston, who is black, until about a month later.
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.
Meggs said the accuser had some trouble remembering the events of the evening, though her BAC was only .04 when it was taken and no evidence of drugs were found in the accuser’s system.
Meggs’ investigation took so long because some unknown DNA was found, later discovered to be from the accuser’s boyfriend. That DNA was not associated with the accuser’s complaint. Meggs also added he never considered charging the accuser with filing a false report.
As for the timeline of Meggs’ investigation, it came to a conclusion two days before Winston and FSU play in the ACC Championship and four days before Heisman ballots are due. Meggs, though, said he never felt compelled to conclude his investigation to fit a timeline for Florida State football.
“There was no pressure,” Meggs said. “I have not consulted with the football schedule or who the starting quarterback might be or might not be.”
UPDATE: Florida State, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher and the accuser’s family released statements after Meggs’ press conference, and are both below.
From the accuser’s family and attorney, Patricia Carroll of Dade City, Fla.:
“The victim and her family appreciate the State Attorney’s efforts in attempting to conduct a proper investigation after an inordinate delay by the Tallahassee Police Department.
“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 and reporting.”
From Florida State president Dr. Eric Barron:
“Recent weeks have provided a painful lesson, as we have witnessed harmful speculation and inappropriate conjecture about this situation and the individuals involved. As a result, we have all been hurt. A respect for the principle of due process is essential to the integrity of our community. Our commitment to each and every one of our students is unwavering and will remain our priority.”
From Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher:
“As you might imagine, I was pleased to hear that the State’s Attorney’s Office exonerated Jameis in the matter. I’m not going to answer any questions about the situation, but I would like to point out that our community and our university are blessed to have really good people in place to review matters like this. I know Jameis is pleased he can focus on being a student at a great university and he’s excited about helping our team achieve its goals this year. Right now, we’re all looking forward to what we have in front of us on Saturday.
Note: Winston was not actually exonerated, as Fisher’s statement reads. Meggs only determined there was not enough evidence to pursue a trial against him.
Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen, said he was confident from “day one” that his client would not be charged: