Prosecutor decries police handling of Winston rape probe

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William Meggs, the Florida state’s attorney charged with handling the investigation into the allegations of rape made against Jameis Winston last year, did not hide the fact that, in his opinion, the initial investigation was not handled properly by the Tallahassee Police Department.

In a New York Times “expose” published Wednesday morning, Meggs was on the offensive yet again.  Meggs assailed the TPD probe on multiple fronts, from failing to readily identify a witness — who also happened to be one of Winston’s teammates — to apparent nonchalance when it came to a crucial tip involving a taxi cab to its handling of Winston in the early stages of the investigation.

On the night in question, in December of 2012, Winston and at least two of his teammates, Chris Casher and Ronald Darby, were at a Tallahassee bar named Potbelly’s.  It was there that the three met up with the alleged victim, had a few drinks and then took off in a taxi with the woman.  At some point a few hours, a 911 call was made, alleging she was raped.

It was the investigation — or lack thereof — that has Meggs speaking out more than four months after his office decided against filing charges against Winston.  And, in somewhat of an unexpected turn, Meggs made his strongest comments to date on the case:

— On the TPD failing to find Casher, who allegedly videotaped a portion of the encounter, in a timely manner, possibly leading to the loss of key evidence:

In the recent interview, Mr. Meggs said he was surprised that the police had not quickly found Mr. Casher. “How long does it take to identify a freshman football player — about 10, 15, 16 seconds?” he asked, adding, “Anybody that looked at this case would say you get a report at 2 in the morning, by noon you could have had the defendant identified and talked to.”

Casher allegedly deleted the video “a couple of days” after Winston’s encounter with the alleged victim, well before he was ever contacted and interviewed by police.

— One of the three football players used an FSU ID to get a discounted fare for the taxi.  TPD investigators failed to find the driver of the cab, as well as failed to secure videotape from myriad security cameras positioned in and around the Tallahassee bar that could have shed some light on the incident:

“I am convinced that we would have identified the cabdriver that night and had an interview with him,” Mr. Meggs said. “Don’t know what we would have learned, but we would have learned the truth. I am also convinced that had it been done properly, we would have had the video from Potbelly’s.

By the time the prosecutor [Meggs] asked for that video, the tape had long since been recycled.

— The TPD’s initial encounter with Winston regarding the allegations came via the telephone, which allowed the player the opportunity to “lawyer up” before he could be questioned:

Mr. Meggs said he was shocked that the police investigator’s first attempt to contact Mr. Winston was by telephone. “He says, ‘I have baseball practice, I’ll get with you later,’” Mr. Meggs said. That call allowed Mr. Winston to hire a lawyer who told him not to talk.

“It’s insane to call a suspect on the phone,” Mr. Meggs said. “First off, you don’t know who you are talking to.” He said he would have gone straight to the baseball field. “If you walked up to Jameis Winston in the middle of baseball practice and said, ‘Come here, son, I need to talk to you,’ he would have said, ‘Yes, sir.’”

In summation, Meggs stated that the TPD “just missed all the basic stuff that you are supposed to do” during the course of an investigation of this type, although he stopped well short of accusing the department in general and the investigating officer specifically of willful misconduct because of Winston’s status as a Seminoles football player. Meggs was also quick to caution, as the Times wrote, that “a better investigation might have yielded the same result,” which was no charges being filed against Winston.

In mid-November, after reports of the probe had surfaced publicly, Meggs vowed that his office would get to the bottom of the allegations, a report of which had only recently been forwarded to him by the TPD — 11 months after the alleged rape and only after an open records request from news organizations seemingly forced the department’s hand.  Three weeks later in a press conference announcing no charges would be filed against Winston, Meggs said his investigation didn’t find enough evidence to prove that the sexual encounter between the player and the alleged victim was not consensual.

A short time later, the attorney for Winston’s accuser called for an investigation into the TPD’s handling of the case.  The feds have also reportedly gotten involved on the university side of the situation, with reports coming to light earlier this month that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched its own investigation into FSU’s handling of the case.

UCLA, Wisconsin reach agreement on future home-and-home

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Still a dozen years down the scheduling road, a future Big Ten-Pac-12 series has nonetheless been revealed.

UCLA and Wisconsin announced Tuesday that the two football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home.  The two teams play at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 15, 2029, and at Camp Randall Stadium on Sept. 7, 2030.

“UCLA is one of the premier programs in college football,” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. “We had some memorable bowl games when I was on the sidelines but this is a great opportunity for us to play them at Camp Randall. Non-conference scheduling is always a challenge but the folks at UCLA have been great to deal with and we look forward to the series.”

The two teams have met 11 times previously, the most recent coming in the 2000 Sun Bowl.  The last regular season meeting between the programs came in 1982.

The Bruins own a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series, including a perfect 5-0 mark in Madison.  The Badgers, though, have won the last three meetings, all of which came in the postseason and the first two of which were Rose Bowl victories.

Philly to play host to four of next five Army-Navy games

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Earlier this year, it was reported that both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees were looking into hosting future Army-Navy football games.  In fact, the latter American League East team had submitted a formal bid for the 2018 edition of one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.

Unfortunately for both organizations, 2023 is the absolute earliest either would potentially play host to a game.

The athletic directors at both Army and Navy, Boo Corrigan and Chet Gladchuk, respectively, jointly announced Tuesday that the 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022 games will be played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.  The vast majority of the 117 games in the rivalry, 86 to be specific, have been played in Philadelphia.

That city will also host the 2017 game.

“The legacy of the City of Brotherly Love and the home of Army-Navy continues to be the benchmark for hosting America’s game,” said Gladchuk in a statement. “This tradition in Philly is so well received and embraced by the city and community that it remains a highlight of the season for the teams, alumni, and fans. Our appreciation to everyone, including USAA, who works so hard to make this week-long festival, culminating with our nation’s cherished match-up between Army and Navy, the fantastic experience it is.”

“Philadelphia is synonymous with the Army-Navy game, so it is fitting that we are playing at Lincoln Financial Field for four of the next five matchups,” Corrigan said in his. “I want to thank the Philadelphia Eagles and PHL Sports. We look forward to continuing the relationship with the City of Philadelphia and creating more memories for America’s Game. The interest level in the game and our future sites was extremely high with first-class bids coming from some of the nation’s best cities, which made for extensive discussions and a difficult decision for those involved.”

An official announcement on the 2021 game is expected later today, with MetLife Stadium in New Jersey the likely choice.  That season’s game will coincide with the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Baltimore (Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium), Foxborough (New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium) and the District of Columbia (Washington Redskins) had also submitted bids to host games.

 

North Carolina State dismisses two freshmen, suspends three others

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North Carolina State is the latest to feel the wrath of off-field tumult just ahead of the start of the 2017 season.

The football program announced Tuesday afternoon that two freshmen, wide receiver Antoine Thompson and defensive end Kevince Brown, have been dismissed from Dave Doeren‘s football program.  Additionally, a trio of additional freshmen, linebacker Isaiah Moore, defensive lineman Erin Collins and defensive lineman Xavier Lyas, have been indefinitely suspended by Doeren.  It’s believed those three will miss at least one game apiece.

The disciplinary measures stem from what were described as “violations of the Student Athlete Code of Conduct.”

The discipline also comes a month or so after an investigation into allegations of three separate sexual assaults at one on-campus party was launched.  According to the school, however, the dismissals and suspensions “are not regarding allegations of sexual assault.”

From WNCN-TV in Raleigh:

The five freshman football players were at the on-campus party in a student’s room at Wolf Village where alcohol and marijuana were present, the school said.

Investigators executed search warrants where they looked at cell phones, the residence and reviewed video from campus security cameras.

“We had five freshmen, two of whom have been dismissed, who made poor decisions that don’t align with the values of our program and each has been handled accordingly,” Doeren said in a statement. “Although I’ve disciplined these players for violations of the Student Athlete Code of Conduct, I want to make it clear that I respect due process in the University and legal proceedings. Our players understand that I’m going be firm, but fair when it comes to discipline.”

“The football players who violated the Student Athlete Code of Conduct and Football Team Rules have been disciplined by Coach Doeren, with my full support,” athletic director Debbie Yow said in hers. “Coach Doeren continues to responsibly manage difficult circumstances in an appropriate and forthcoming manner, which is greatly appreciated. Two have been dismissed from the team and are no longer enrolled at NC State, and three others have received suspensions from competition, as well as other discipline. These actions are not regarding allegations of sexual assault. We reserve the right to impose additional sanctions if new violations are discovered.”

All five players were three-star members of NCSU’s 2017 recruiting class.  Only three members of that class were rated higher than Thompson.

Lane Kiffin informally utilizing Art Briles to help FAU offense

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Leave it to Lane Kiffin to leave no stone unturned, regardless of how controversial it may be.

Not long after he was hired as the head coach at Florida Atlantic, Kiffin came under fire after hiring Kendal Briles as his offensive coordinator, especially after a woman alleged in a lawsuit that the assistant coach had contributed to the “culture of sexual violence” at Baylor.  Kiffin subsequently stood by his hiring of Briles, saying that the coordinator was thoroughly vetted by the athletic department before joining the program.

Over the weekend and on into this week, Kiffin opened himself up to additional criticism when both he and Briles confirmed that each of them have turned to Art Briles, ousted as BU’s head football coach in the midst of the sexual assault scandal, for help and advice when it comes to the Owls’ offense.

From the Sun-Sentinel:

Obviously, he has ideas,” Kendal said. “He wants to know personnel and different guys and making sure we’re getting those guys in the right spots and getting them touches and all that stuff. He’s a football coach, that’s all he’s ever been. He’s definitely involved and we talk daily.”

Kendal said he’s sent film to Art before to help with the FAU offense. On Monday, Kiffin said he’s spoken with Art a couple times.

“Obviously, he’s done unbelievable things on offense,” Kiffin said. “It’s his system that he started years and years ago. Every once in a while, I’ll text or call him and bounce something off of him.

The newspaper made sure to note that, per the younger Briles, the elder Briles has not been on the FAU campus.  And, when such a note is necessary, publicly associating yourself with the disgraced head coach in any way, shape of form might not be the best idea.  Then again, for better or worse, Kiffin’s gonna Kiffin, regardless of what anyone else thinks.