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.

Marshall football player arrested for domestic battery

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Marshall safety Braydon Drayton was arrested Wednesday and charged for his alleged actions in a domestic assault incident.

According to a report from WSAZ, Drayton was place din custody at a regional jail with a bond set at $55,000. Drayton was charged for suspected strangulation and domestic battery of a woman. A formal complaint submitted earlier in the day claimed the alleged victim had red marks around her neck and chest following the alleged assault by Drayton. The victim claims to have been grabbed by Drayton around her neck as tempers flared.

Drayton has been suspended by the Marshall football program on an indefinite basis, allowing the legal process to play out before any further decisions on his status with the program may be made.

Mississippi State players say Joe Moorhead isn’t leaving SEC for another job

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With Rutgers searching for a new head coach and Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead reportedly being among the top candidates to fill the vacancy, the rumor-denial season is in full swing in Starkville. Days after Moorhead deflected the idea of him leaving Mississippi State to take the Rutgers job, some of Moorhead’s players are coming to his aide to shut down the idea the coach would return to his home state.

“It’s funnier to him than anything,” Mississippi State quarterback Garrett Shrader said, according to a Mississippi Clarion Ledger report on Tuesday. “He’s not leaving an SEC West program. He’s told me that multiple times.”

“He’s our coach. He’s been the same guy,” Shrader said. “He’s passionate about this team. He’s very vocal about that. He’s not going anywhere.”

Joining Shrader in attempting to shut down the Moorhead-to-Rutgers rumor mill was running back Kylin Hill, who summed up the discussion as nothing more than the typical banter that seemingly happens during the silly season that is the coaching carousel.

“There’s always going to be outside noise,” Hill said. “That’s the world we live in today. I’m not too focused on it. Nobody’s focused on it. Everybody loves the man.”

Moorhead and Mississippi State will have their attention set on this week’s game. The Bulldogs hit the road for a game at Texas A&M on Saturday. Mississippi State is looking to even its record at 4-4.

Georgia may be next in line for ‘Fair Pay to Play’ legislation

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The trend sweeping the nation in collegiate athletics appears to be heading to Georgia next. The “Fair Pay to Play” movement will be coming to Georgia, following the lead of California and following similar pushes by other states around the country.

Georgia state representative Billy Mitchell will reportedly be submitting formal legislation that would seek to allow college athletes to be eligible to receive compensation for the use of their image, likeness, and name. This is the same basic principle behind the new law in the state of California which was recently signed and will go into effect beginning in 2023.

If the legislation were to pass within the state of Georgia, it would impact every college football team in the state including FBS programs at Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State. Other states in the southeast to begin getting the wheels in motion for a Fair Pay to Play movement include Kentucky, South Carolina, and Florida. Other states have gotten in on the fun too, including Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New York, Illinois and Nevada.

New York’s proposal went a step farther than the most common proposed legislation in the Fair Pay to Play movement by proposing universities directly share a percentage of an athletic program’s overall revenue with every student-athlete on campus.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addresses concerns over officiating

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In this day and age, officials are being scrutinized to degrees once never dreamed of. With multiple angles for instant replays on television and on the big stadium scoreboards, every little mistake by an official in a football game will come under fire from fans, coaches and players.  Following a tough loss to Florida, South Carolina fans and their head coach, Will Muschamp, were not particularly pleased with some officiating decisions or lack of decisions made in the setback at home against the Gators. South Carolina’s issues were just the latest in a string of concerns folks around the SEC have had about the integrity of the officials calling their games, a story every fanbase in every conference can relate to in some way.

On Wednesday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addressed the general concerns fans about the officials working game sin his conference. In short, Sankey says nobody is perfect.

“The Southeastern Conference is entrusted with supporting an officiating program that is responsible for calling the games of our member schools. We take this duty most seriously,” Sankey wrote on the SEC’s official website. “We view perfection as our desired goal while also understanding it will always be an elusive standard in a game that is filled with surprises. And we are disappointed when we don’t get it right. Because our goal is to get it right, every time.”

Sankey continued to enforce the idea the SEC is constantly monitoring the performance of their officials and explained the assignments for officials may also be adjusted according to their ongoing in-season performance reviews. While the SEC does not make these assignment changes transparent once changes are made, the idea is to have the best officials working the best games without any potential issues becoming growing concerns in key moments.

Sankey also issued a reminder that coaches and administrators throughout the conference are not allowed to publicly rip the officials, a standard operating procedure in every conference (just ask Lane Kiffin about that).

The SEC has taken some strides in an effort to be more transparent about the officiating process with the launch of a new Twitter account (just don’t check the mentions on game days) and programming on the SEC Network to detail how the rules are governed and upheld during games.