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, a source who helped draft the statement to the media told Jeff Cameron, host of 97.9 ESPN Tallahassee.
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, is scheduled to formally announce 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.
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, a former FSU student, who withdrew from classes after the allegations resurfaced in media reports last month.
Carroll and Jansen couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher was expected to address the media after the Seminoles’ practice on Thursday, but the school indicated that Winston likely will not speak.
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.
The accuser initially reported the alleged rape to FSU police on the night of the incident. Since the incident took place away from campus, FSU police immediately referred the case to Tallahassee police. The woman’s attorney has been critical of the way Tallahassee police handled the case from the beginning. In a statement released two weeks ago, Carroll wrote that a TPD police officer told her that Tallahassee is 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.”
Last week, Tallahassee police issued a timeline of the case and defended their handling of the investigation. According to the timeline, TPD said the woman didn’t identify Winston as her alleged attacker until Jan. 10, more than a month after the incident. Tallahassee police said evidence from the woman’s rape kit was sent to the state crime lab on Jan. 15, and Winston declined to be interviewed by police on Jan. 23.
In February, Tallahassee police put the case in “open/inactive” status because the accuser decided she didn’t wish to prosecute the case. But Carroll has vehemently denied that the woman ever wanted to drop the investigation.
Winston, who has passed for 3,490 yards with 38 touchdowns and five interceptions in his first season as a starter, might become the second consecutive freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Last season, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win college football’s most coveted individual honor. Many Heisman Trophy voters were waiting to learn the results of the criminal investigation before casting their ballots. The deadline for ballots to be turned in is Monday.