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Noise and echoes

Florida State's Jameis Winston easily wins Heisman, but questions linger over rape accusations after case is closed

December 15, 2013|BILL PLASCHKE

On a fine football Saturday night, Jameis Winston proudly took possession of the most prestigious sculpture in American sports, the Heisman Trophy.

In the background of all of these accolades, there is a woman who claims he raped her.

The victim stated that she was telling the suspect to stop but he didn't.

Winston, Florida State's electrifying freshman quarterback, won college football's top award in a New York theater awash in tales of his greatness.

Drowned out were the words in a Tallahassee Police Department incident report from Dec. 7, 2012, words and evidence the state attorney judged were not credible enough to take to trial.

The suspect also pinned the woman's arms down ... the suspect them took the woman to the bathroom and continued the assault.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, December 18, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
College football: A photo caption that accompanied a column in the Dec. 15 Sports section referred to Boston College's Andre Williams as a quarterback. He is a running back.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, December 22, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
College football: A photo caption that accompanied a column in the Dec. 15 Sports section referred to Boston College's Andre Williams as a quarterback. He is a running back.

Winston will reside atop the sports universe for the next several weeks as he and fellow Seminoles charge into Pasadena for the Jan. 6 BCS title game against Auburn.

But beneath these lofty heights are reports surrounding a sexual encounter he had with an unidentified female last year at his Tallahassee apartment that paint him as a different sort of aggressor.

The sexual assault nurse notes some redness on knees and top of her left foot. She also noted brown bruises on left knee and on her right elbow ... the pink shorts gave chemical indication for the presence of blood.

Today, of all days, it is important to acknowledge the Florida state attorney officially has closed this sexual assault investigation of Jameis Winston and that no charges will be filed.

"We came to the decision that it was not a case that we could bring forward, because we would not have the burden of proof, the probable cause, and the reasonable likelihood of a conviction," Florida State Atty. Willie Meggs said in a news conference Dec. 5.

But today, of all days, with a Heisman in Winston's hands and possibly a national championship crystal ball in his future, it is equally important to acknowledge the lingering echoes -- fair or unfair -- surrounding him.

They tell a story that can be relayed without judgment or bias, a story told through the documented words of those directly involved, culled from various police reports and statements and will be italicized here.

I have to talk to you. I spent all night in the hospital ... I got raped. I don't want to text about it. My parents are here.... My dad went like 100 the whole way here at 4 in the morning.

The story begins here, in the texts from the alleged victim to friends on Nov. 7. In the early morning hours, she left a Tallahassee bar in a cab with an unknown man who allegedly took her to his apartment, raped her, dressed her, then drove her to an intersection near her home on her scooter.

She immediately called the Tallahassee police and a report was filed. A month later, she saw her suspected attacker in one of her classes and identified him as Winston. At the time, he was a redshirt freshman quarterback who had yet to appear in a game. But he was considered the top quarterback recruit in the country and the centerpiece of the rebirth of a formerly great program.

Here's what happened once Winston's name was mentioned. There were no DNA samples taken from Winston. His lawyer would not allow any questioning of his client. The only strong action allegedly came from Tallahassee Det. Scott Angulo to family attorney Patricia Carroll, in words that were made public in a statement issued by the family.

Detective (Scott) Angulo told the attorney Tallahassee was a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against (Winston) because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.

The investigation was halted for nearly a year until media reports brought it back to the headlines last month. At that point, the Florida state attorney's office took over, and a DNA sample was taken that matched Winston with DNA found in the woman's underwear. Winston wouldn't talk, and the only words in his defense were virtually identical sworn statements from two teammates who allegedly witnessed the sexual encounter.

Ronald Darby, defensive back: "At no time did the girl ever indicate that she was not a willing participant."

Chris Casher, defensive end: "She never indicated that she was not a willing participant."

Then on Dec. 5, shortly before the last Heisman vote was cast and two days before Florida State played a game that would qualify it for the national title game, the investigation was officially closed and Winston's name was officially cleared.

The Florida state attorney acknowledged the 11-month delay hurt the investigation. But he also cited the potential case was irreparably damaged by the presence of a second DNA sample on her clothes and the accuser's memory lapses, more damaging because she did not test positive for drugs or high levels of alcohol. The accuser's lawyer countered by noting her client was never tested for date rape drugs. She also claimed other investigative inconsistencies.

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