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.

Miami to be without its leading tackler for FIU game

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As it closes out the non-conference portion of its 2018 schedule, Miami will (again, in one case) be at less than 100 percent at a couple of key positions.

Mark Richt confirmed Thursday that Jaquan Johnson will be sidelined for The U’s Week 4 matchup with Florida International. The safety suffered a hamstring injury in the Week 3 road win over Toledo and did not practice at all this week.

Johnson has started 17 straight games for the Hurricanes — three this season, all 13 in 2017 and the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl win over West Virginia. In 2018, the fourth-year senior leads the ‘Canes in tackles with 22. He also has one of UM’s two blocked kicks on the season.

In addition to Johnson, wide receiver Ahmmon Richards will miss his third straight game because of a knee injury suffered in the season-opening loss to LSU. Like his teammate, Richards did not practice at all this week.

The knee issue continues a string of injuries that Richards has had to battle through the past two seasons.

Richards missed the first two games in 2017 because of a hamstring issue, then suffered a season-ending meniscus injury in late November. At the time of that latter injury, Richards was third on the Hurricanes in receptions (24) receiving yards (439) and receiving touchdowns (three). The year before as a true freshman, he led the team with 934 receiving yards.

Prior to being injured in the opener this season, Richards had one catch for nine yards.

Miami will open ACC play next Thursday against North Carolina, with that short week likely playing at least a small role in erring on the side of caution with the players, Johnson in particular.

Scott Frost: This could get worse before it gets better

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Nebraska’s hiring of Scott Frost to take over as the head coach of the Cornhuskers came with a red wave of high optimism, but this was always going to be a bit of a rebuilding process in Lincoln. After an 0-2 start to the season, Frost is already bracing Nebraska fans about what could come next for the Huskers, because it may not be all that happy.

This could get worse before it gets better,” Frost said this week, as quoted in a Sports Illustrated story by Andy Staples. Frost is fair with his assessment.

This week, Nebraska opens Big Ten play with a road game in Ann Arbor against Michigan. The Wolverines are hoping the offense is on track after a tough season opener and playing at home could be a nice advantage against a Nebraska team with a young quarterback and a team still trying to come together under Frost. After that, Nebraska will get a home game against Purdue before back-to-back road games at Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Nebraska also has games later this season at Ohio State, home against Michigan State, and at Iowa to close out the season. The schedule was not a kind one to Nebraska this particular season, but the Huskers should improve over time under Frost.

Making a bowl game in Frost’s first season was always going to be a nice accomplishment if Nebraska could pull it off this season. After a tough 0-2 start with home losses to Colorado and Troy, Nebraska’s bowl hopes already look razor thin, but this is still a team that should continue to grow as the year moves along.

Rutgers completes 2021 schedule with addition of FCS school

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The final piece of the scheduling puzzle for Rutgers has been found for the 2021 season. Rutgers announced the addition of a home game against Delaware, an FCS program, to the 2021 schedule to give the Scarlet Knights a full schedule.

Rutgers will host Delaware on September 18, 2021. Other non-conference games lined up for Rutgers includes a season opener against Temple at home and a road trip to Syracuse for a pair of games against former Big East foes.

Rutgers has not faced the Blue Hens of Delaware since 1973. Rutgers leads the all-time series, 15-13-3. Delaware was also recently added to the future schedule of Penn State, with road trips to Penn State slated for 2023 and 2027.

In a fun little uniform twist, Rutgers will play teams with the signature winged helmet with shades of blue and yellow in back-to-back weeks. A week after hosting Delaware, Rutgers is scheduled to play a Big Ten contest at Michigan. Delaware and Michigan wear similar uniforms highlighted by a similar winged helmet design.

Nebraska squeezes in 12th game against Bethune-Cookman

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Nebraska will play a 12-game schedule after all, as long as Mother Nature decides to cooperate for the rest of the season. Nebraska announced today it has added a home football game against Bethune-Cookman.

According to the release from Nebraska, the Huskers will host the FCS school on October 27. The game will replace a home game wiped out by lightning against Akron back in Week 1.

“Our great fans and our football student-athletes deserve a full schedule, and we are glad to be able to provide an additional game on Oct. 27 against Bethune-Cookman,” Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said. “We appreciate the patience of our fans through this process.”

Nebraska will pay Bethune-Cookman $800,000 to make the trip to Lincoln.