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.

Nick Saban brings in Ray Rice to speak to Alabama players

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If you’re trying to show your players how to avoid doing the wrong things, bringing in someone who did one of the most absolutely vile and abhorrent things — and is successfully turning his life around — is probably not the worst way to go about your business.

Already this offseason, Nick Saban has brought in Mike Tyson to speak to his Alabama football team.  On Thursday, Ray Rice was in Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide head coach’s “Title IX speaker” to touch on subjects such as domestic violence.

Then a member of the Baltimore Ravens, the former Rutgers running back was suspended by the NFL in 2014 after videos surfaced of Rice punching his then-fiancée Janay Palmer and dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.  Initially suspended, Rice never played another down in the NFL because of an incident Kyle Flood, then the Scarlet Knights’ head coach and now an assistant coach at Alabama, described at the time as a sad day for RU football.

Rice, who is now married to Janay Palmer, has since turned into a motivational speaker of sorts, speaking in front of football players at programs such as Georgia (HERE) and Ohio State (HERE).

Prior to Rice’s latest appearance, Saban explained his reasoning for bringing Rice in.

Well, he’s obviously going to talk about how to treat the opposite sex and having the proper respect for other people,” Saban said when asked about Rice’s appearance. “And I think that’s important to relationships. It’s important as a person to be able to do those things in a very respectful manner.

I think a lot of the players can relate to (Rice’s) circumstance,” Saban said. “And it will be interesting to hear a guy that has had issues that now has turned a corner and has really done everything he can to help other people not have the same problem that he has. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him doing that and we’re certainly glad to have him here.

UTEP mourns passing of TE Luke Laufenberg, 21, after two-year battle with leukemia

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For the second time this month, the insidiousness that is cancer has struck at the heart of college football.

Following a nearly two-year battle with leukemia, Luke Laufenberg passed away early Thursday morning, his father, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg, heartbreakingly revealed on Twitter. ” The hole in our hearts will never be filled,” Laufenberg wrote. “You are my hero. RIP my sweet Luke. See you on the other side.”

The younger Laufenberg had just signed with UTEP this past February as a tight end and was expected by many to win a starting job before his health began to fail again later on in the offseason.

Laufenberg actually began his collegiate career as a walk-on at Texas A&M. On the day after Christmas 2017, Laufenberg was diagnosed with leukemia; in May of the following year, he was declared cancer-free and, after the 230-pound player had regained the 90-plus pounds he had lost during chemotherapy, began his trek back to college football, first at a junior college in 2018 before signing with UTEP earlier this year.

By the summer, sadly, the disease had returned with a fatal ferocity, with doctors telling his family in July that “his condition was terminal and that he had just a few weeks left.”

Below is a statement from UTEP head coach Dana Dimel:

Luke Laufenberg touched our hearts and souls forever. His spirit and fight are reminders of what it means to play and coach the game of football. He was a fighter, a champion and a wonderful person. He was a very talented young man that lived his life and left a huge mark on everyone he came in contact with. He was a wonderful individual and will not be forgotten on our football team. Our student-athletes learned from how he prepared himself and the way he handled adversity. I know Luke loved playing football for UTEP and he will forever be a MINER!

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those affected by the young man’s way-too-early passing.­

Syracuse no longer calling the Carrier Dome the, uh, Carrier Dome

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Stadium names change all the time in college football and we’ve seen some strange mash ups over the past few decades but there’s been an interesting twist in upstate New York.

Thanks in part to a growing spat with the company over the naming rights to the aptly named Carrier Dome, Syracuse has embarked on a bit of a rebranding for their longtime football and basketball home by shortening things to just ‘The Dome.’

As spotted by Syracuse.com, the school has removed some 64 mentions of the word Carrier in their annual football media guide and have even gone as far as to leave out any mentions of the company in their season ticket materials too.

“We will be contacting the university to discuss further,” Carrier Senior Director of Communications Ashley Barrie said in a statement to the site.

Orange officials have said they are not de-emphasizing the ‘Carrier’ part of the Carrier Dome to send any sort of message but rather reinforcing the ‘Dome’ part of the stadium’s name.

Something says that as much as that may be their public stance, this rebranding battle is something that figures to get some lawyers involved in soon enough. The football team’s home opener isn’t until Sept. 14 against defending champion Clemson so there’s certainly some time to work things out but it sure seems like a new name for the venerable venue is something we’ll all have to start getting used to.

Ex-Auburn, Miami RB Asa Martin lands at Memphis

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After going from AU to the ACC, tailback Asa Martin is now ticketed for the AAC.

Got that?

Per 247Sports, Martin has apparently enrolled at Memphis for the 2019 season. Per transfer rules he’s sitting out the year either way unless there’s some sort of NCAA waiver involved but it’s still the sophomore’s third school in nine months.

Martin was originally a four-star recruit in the class of 2018 and saw action in five games for the SEC Tigers as a true freshman, rushing for 57 yards all told while catching two passes for 36 yards. He entered the transfer portal in late December though, just after Auburn’s season had concluded.

Eventually Martin found a home at Miami and enrolled in time for spring practice. Perhaps he was not thrilled at the situation because come mid-June the tailback was back in the transfer portal looking for a new program to play with.

We’ll see if this latest move to Memphis sticks because we’ve certainly seen that Martin is no stranger to moving around.