Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Prosecutor decries police handling of Winston rape probe


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.

No punishment from SEC for Bielema’s sideline interaction with Alabama player

Bret Bielema

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will not be disciplined by the SEC office for his brief interaction with Alabama offensive lineman Cam Robinson last weekend. A video showing Bielema exaggerating his interaction with Robinson at the end of a play was reviewed by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, and the commissioner has discussed the situation with the Razorbacks coach.

“I visited with Bret over the phone on Monday and we discussed the play that has now become widely reviewed through a brief video clip,” Sankey said in a released statement. “Football is played in an intense competitive environment and I reminded him of the need for head coaches to resolve with their own players issues that may arise, which was his intent. The unsportsmanlike penalty assessed on the play was not directly associated with Bret’s efforts to intervene at the end of the play and we are moving forward in a positive manner.”

That appears to be the end of the discussion regarding Bielema’s act. I personally think there should have been some more done here by the league’s commissioner, but we will see if Bielema avoids putting himself in a similar position moving forward.

Temple announces rare football sellout

Jahad Thomas, Marcus Allen

In the midst of what could be a dream season in South Philadelphia, the Temple Owls announced a rare sellout for a football game this afternoon. The October 31 game at home against Notre Dame has sold out Lincoln Financial Field. This is the first time Temple has sold out two home games in the same season since 1976, when the Owls began playing home games in one of Philadelphia’s pro sports stadiums.

This is the second sellout of the season for Temple, but it is also worth mentioning who the opponents are for those two games; Penn State and Notre Dame. Penn State is always Temple’s biggest draw when they get a chance to host the Nittany Lions and their legions of fans in and around the Delaware Valley. Temple dominated Penn State in the season opener, snapping a long losing streak against the in-state power. Notre Dame is also a big draw everywhere the Irish go, and there is a solid fanbase in the southeastern part of Philadelphia as well.

It is also a rare trip to Philadelphia for Notre Dame. The Irish last played in Philadelphia in 1993 when they faced Navy in Veterans Stadium. Navy also hosted Notre Dame in Philadelphia in 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972 and 1974. Notre Dame and Temple have never played in Philadelphia, although they did face each other in the 2013 season opener. This year’s game is the second game of a home-and-home series.

The game could potentially prove to play a key role in the evolving College Football Playoff and Group of Five conversation as well. If Temple avoids slipping up this week against UCF and next week at East Carolina and USC holds off USC, then we could have an undefeated and top 25 Temple program hosting a top 15 or even potential top 10 Notre Dame on Halloween. Let’s not put the cart ahead of the horse here, but that could be a very attractive matchup worth paying attention to at the end of the month for many fanbases.