*Nearly one year after Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of rape by a female FSU student, the state attorney has decided not to charge the Heisman Trophy favorite, reports ESPN.
Thursday’s decision clears the way for him to finish the season with the No. 1 Seminoles.
Willie Meggs, the state attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit, formally announced the move during a news conference Thursday at the Leon County Courthouse. Winston had faced felony charges after being accused of sexually assaulting the woman at an off-campus apartment on Dec. 7, 2012.
“We’ve carefully examined all the evidence in this case and have concluded that no charges will be filed against anyone in this case,” Meggs said.
Meggs and his office have been investigating the case for the past three weeks, and they interviewed the accuser about two weeks ago. Last month, ESPN.com reported that DNA found in the woman’s underwear matched Winston’s DNA. His attorney, Tim Jansen of Tallahassee, said Winston had consensual sex with the woman. But the woman’s attorney, Patricia Carroll of Tampa, Fla., said the star quarterback raped her 19-year-old client, who withdrew from classes at FSU after the allegations resurfaced in media reports last month.
“We have a duty as prosecutors to determine if each case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” Meggs said. “After reviewing the facts in this case, we do not feel that we can reach those burdens.”
While the case could be reopened if new evidence was found, Meggs indicated that “he had no earthly idea what that would be.”
The accuser’s attorney released a statement shortly after Meggs spoke.
“The victim and her family appreciate the State Attorney’s efforts in attempting to conduct a proper investigation after an inordinate delay by the Tallahassee Police Department,” the statement said. “The victim in this case had the courage to immediately report her rape to the police and she relied upon them to seek justice. 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.”
Search warrants in the case were released before Meggs’ announcement and indicate the woman told police she was raped at an apartment after a night of drinking at a bar. In the warrant, the accuser says she and friends had shots at Potbellys and her “memory is very broken from that point forward.”
Meggs said that toxicology reports show the accuser had a blood alcohol level of .04 and that there was no evidence of drugs, including what are commonly referred to as date rape drugs.
According to the warrants, the accuser says she remembers being in a cab with a man and going into an apartment before she was raped. Meggs said that investigators could not find the cab driver, the attempt made much more difficult by the time that had elapsed before his office began investigating.
After that, the accuser said she remembers the suspect dressing her, putting her on a scooter and dropping her off at an intersection, but she had no idea where the alleged rape occurred.
“Her recall of the events of that night have been moving around quite a bit,” Meggs said.
He said that there were memory lapses in the accuser’s story, and they were trying to figure out how that would have come about.
Meggs described the accuser as forthcoming as she could be but she did want to protect “herself, her family, her own name,” which he said is not uncommon in sexual assault investigations. The accuser’s lack of recall proved to be another critical aspect in the state’s decision not to move forward, Meggs said.
Meggs said that he didn’t think they could put the accuser on the stand and “count on her to prove elements of a crime.”
If Winston, a redshirt freshman from Bessemer, Ala., had been charged with a felony crime by the state attorney’s office, he would have been immediately suspended from the team and ineligible for competition under FSU athletics department policy. Now, Winston can finish the season with the Seminoles, who are heavy favorites to defeat No. 20 Duke in Saturday night’s ACC championship game in Charlotte, N.C. With one more victory, the Seminoles (12-0, 8-0 ACC) would punch their tickets to the Jan. 6 VIZIO BCS National Championship at Rose Bowl Stadium.