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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.

Deshaun Watson wins Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 31:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates after throwing a touchdown during their game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on October 31, 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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He probably won’t win the sport’s most important individual award, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson took home a nice consolation prize on Tuesday.

Watson was announced as the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the top senior or fourth-year junior quarterback in college football. A three-year starter for the Tigers, Watson has completed 775-of-1,115 career passes for 9,489 yards with 86 touchdowns against 30 interceptions while also adding 1,829 yards and 23 scores on the ground.

Most importantly, he’s led Clemson to back-to-back ACC championships and consecutive trips to the College Football Playoff. His 2nd-ranked Tigers will face No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31.

Watson was named a Heisman Trophy finalist on Monday for a season in which he’s thrown for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Recent winners of the Unitas award are Colt McCoyAndrew LuckMarcus Mariota and, in 2015, Connor Cook. Watson will accept the honor at a ceremony in Baltimore on Friday night before jetting up for the Heisman ceremony on Saturday.

Navy to don 1963 throwbacks vs. Army on Saturday

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 13:  Brendan Dudeck #81 of the Navy Midshipmen carries the American flag on the field before the start of their game against the Army Black Knights at M&T Bank Stadium on December 13, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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On Monday, Army displayed the World War II-themed uniforms the Black Knights will wear against Navy on Saturday.

On Tuesday, it was Navy’s turn.

With President-elect Donald Trump in attendance, the Midshipmen will put their 14-game winning streak on the line by channeling one of the best Navy teams of all-time — the 1963 bunch.

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That 1963 team was led by Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach and finished the season ranked No. 2 in both polls, falling to No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

The ’63 game remains one of the most memorable in the 116-year history of the game, played on the insistence of Jacqueline Kennedy amid talk of canceling the contest following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

And, oh by the way, Navy won that fabled game, 21-15.

Report: Christian McCaffrey to declare for NFL Draft

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (5) leaps over the line of scrimmage trying to score near the end zone against Southern California during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Christian McCaffrey will declare for the NFL Draft, according to a report from Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.

He would join Texas’s D'Onta Foreman and LSU’s Leonard Fournette among early entrant running backs.

McCaffrey, of course, offers a different skill set than those two and any other running back. Just as much a threat catching the ball or as a returner, McCaffrey set the FBS single-season all-purpose yardage record — rushing for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns, receiving for 645 yards and five scores, accumulating 1,070 kick return yards with one touchdown and returning punts for 130 yards and a touchdown. He finished runner-up to Derrick Henry in the Heisman Trophy voting while leading Stanford to the Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory.

This season, McCaffrey’s profile dropped as Stanford dropped from the national title conversation, but he actually improved as a running back. McCaffrey’s averages jumped in both yards per game (145.1 vs. 144.2) and yards per carry (6.3 vs. 6.0).

Assuming he does indeed declare, McCaffrey will wrap up his Cardinal career as Stanford faces North Carolina in the Sun Bowl (2 p.m. ET Dec. 30, CBS).

Former Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam dies at 42

15 Oct 1994: COLORADO RUNNING BACK RASHAAN SALAAM BREAKS INTO THE OPEN FIELD DURING THE BUFFALOES 45-7 VICTORY OVER THE OKLAHOMA SOONERS IN A BIG EIGHT GAME AT FOLSOM FIELD IN BOULDER, COLORADO.
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Former Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam died on Tuesday, a family spokesperson announced Tuesday. He was 42.

Salaam was found dead in a Boulder, Colo., park on Monday night. Authorities said there were no signs of foul play.

“The Buff Family has lost an outstanding young man and a great Buff today,” CU athletics director Rick George said in a statement Tuesday. “We are heartbroken for Rashaan and his family and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this very difficult time.”

Salaam was best known in college football for winning the 1994 Heisman Trophy, beating out Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter, the late Alcorn State quarterback Steve McNair and Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins after a season in which he rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns on 7.61 yards per carry. Salaam also claimed the Walter Camp Player of the Year award and the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back after helping the Buffs to a season in which they finished 11-1, beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the AP poll.

Salaam was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears in the 1995 NFL Draft and became the youngest player in league history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. His career fizzled from there, though, as a broken leg derailed his career and his yearly totals dwindled to 496, 112 and later two yards with the expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999. Salaam later tried comeback efforts in the XFL and CFL before calling it quits.

Oddly enough, Salaam is the first Heisman winner in more than half a century to pass away.

“He was very coachable,” former CU coach Bill McCartney said. “He had a happy heart. I loved being around him. He didn’t take himself too seriously, and he always credited those around him, especially his offensive line. What I liked about him is that he had a sparkle in his eye. He was upbeat and positive.”