TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State quarterback and Heisman hopeful Jameis Winston will not face any charges in a sexual assault case, mostly because there were too many gaps in his accuser’s story, a prosecutor said Thursday.
State Attorney Willie Meggs said the woman’s memory lapses about the events last December were problematic and there was not enough evidence to win a conviction.
“It’s not inconsistencies, it’s lack of memory most of the time,” Meggs said.
The woman told police she had been drinking at a bar with friends and went home with a man she didn’t know. She said she the alleged assault took place at an off-campus apartment, but she couldn’t remember where it was.
A month later, she identified her alleged attacker as the quarterback. Winston’s attorney said the sex was consensual.
The quarterback said in a statement he was relieved.
“It’s been difficult to stay silent through this process, but I never lost faith in the truth and in who I am,” Winston said.
The alleged assault happened long before Winston became a star on the national stage. Reports about an investigation didn’t surface in the public until last month, as the redshirt freshman was well into a remarkable season with Florida State.
Winston, 19, has led the Seminoles to a No. 1 ranking and a shot at a national championship if they defeat Duke on Saturday in the ACC title game. As for the Heisman, many voters were waiting to see whether he would be charged before casting their ballot. The deadline is Monday and Winston is considered a leading contender for the trophy for the nation’s top player. It will be awarded Dec. 14.
The accuser’s family has been sharply critical of the Tallahassee Police Department, accusing the agency of delaying the investigation and discouraging her from going forward with the case because of the public attention it would receive.
“The victim has grave concerns that her experience, as it unfolded in the public eye and through social media, will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting,” according to a statement from the accuser and her family.
The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
On Thursday, specific details of the alleged assault were released. The woman told police she and friends were drinking at Potbelly’s and said she remembered getting into a cab with a man she didn’t know.
At the apartment, she said she tried to fight the man off, but he wouldn’t stop. At some point, she said another man came into the room and told her attacker to stop, but he didn’t.
Her next memory was of the suspect dressing her, putting her on a scooter and dropping her off at a campus intersection. Once she got back to her room, she called police and later went to the hospital.
Police said they opened an investigation and were collecting evidence when they were told in February she didn’t want to pursue the charges. The woman’s attorney has denied she wanted to drop the investigation.
Winston refused to be interviewed by police and has not answered questions from the media. Two of his teammates backed his story in statements they gave last month to an investigator for the quarterback’s attorney, Timothy Jansen. The statements were part of an investigative file released Thursday.
Teammates Christopher Casher and Ronald Darby said they were at Potbelly’s with Winston when the accuser struck up a conversation with the quarterback and got into the cab with the three men.
Once at the apartment, the teammates said they peeked through Winston’s bedroom door and saw the woman having sex with the quarterback. At one point, Casher said he “busted into the room to embarrass Jameis” and the girl yelled at him to “get out.”
In a later interview with police, Casher changed this part of his story, saying he went into the room because he hoped the woman would also have sex with him, something he said had happened in the past when he and Winston brought a woman to the apartment.
Casher left the room and was not accused of having sex with the woman, and no other women have made accusations against Casher or Darby.
Meggs’ office took over the case last month. Investigators interviewed the accuser, other witnesses and collected evidence before the prosecutor made his decision.
He said the woman’s blood-alcohol content at the hospital was .04 and investigators estimated it to be about .10 at the time of the incident, based on the amount of time that had passed. The legal limit to drive in Florida is .08.
They also took DNA from Winston and matched it to DNA collected from the woman’s underwear. DNA on her shorts matched her boyfriend at the time.
The accuser’s family has said they pushed police to take a DNA sample from Winston earlier in the investigation, only to be told by a police detective that it would alert Winston and make the case public.
The family said the accuser’s attorney, Patricia Carroll, was warned by police that Tallahassee is a “big football town, and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.”
Tallahassee police have defended their handling of the case.
The alleged victim was an FSU student, but she left school last month as media reports of the case surfaced. Meggs said when his office spoke with the woman last month, she wanted the case to move forward.