One week ago, news reports surfaced linking Jameis Winston to a sexual assault investigation in Tallahassee.
Since that time, developments have come quickly. The Tallahassee police have been criticized by both sides for the conduct of the investigation and their recent actions, the appointed prosecutor has made his own statements to the press and launched his own inquiry, and each side is pointing a finger at the other.
After a week, where does the investigation stand, and what's going to happen next?
What do we know?
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the subject of a sexual assault investigation by Florida's state attorney, Willie Meggs, stemming from a sexual encounter with an unknown woman in December 2012. On Wednesday night, ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported that a DNA sample taken from the accuser's underwear the day after the incident matched a DNA sample provided by Winston. The finding prompted Winston's attorney, Tim Jansen, to publicly state that Winston had consensual sex with the woman. Jansen also told reporters that two eyewitnesses would corroborate Winston's defense.
The alleged victim notified police of the assault on December 7, 2012. In January, she identified Winston as the attacker. The investigation closed in Feburary, however, and remained inactive until early November. Nobody seems to know why it was reopened and transferred to the state attorney for review, though the victim's family believes it was due to media inquiries.
At the moment, the bigger issue is the Tallahassee Police Department's handling of the investigation to date. The accuser's attorney and family have told reporters that a Tallahassee police detective warned her off the investigation due to Winston's place on the football team:
In early January, when the victim identified the perpetrator as Jameis Winston, the family grew concerned that she would be targeted on campus.
We requested assistance from an attorney friend to interact with law enforcement on the victim's behalf. When the attorney contacted Detective Angulo immediately after Winston was identified, Detective Angulo told the attorney that Tallahassee was 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.
In a written statement, the victim's family also alleged that police refused to interview key witnesses or conduct DNA testing after she identified Winston as the alleged attacker in January.
Tallahassee city manager Anita Favors Thompson sent an email to city commissioners on November 12, indicating that the investigation stopped in February because the woman decided she did not want to press charges. This has also been the position of the interim police chief, Tom Coe. The victim's attorney has pointedly denied the city's claims.
For their part, Winston and his attorney are similarly angry with the actions of the Tallahassee police and prosecutors. Winston's complaints stem from the leaked DNA results, a leak which likely came from TPD, the prosecutor, or the lab which conducted the test:
"We are not surprised with the results of the DNA," he said. "We voluntarily submitted to a DNA, the only thing we are surprised by is it was leaked out by law enforcement," [Jansen] said. "The question the people should ask is why is it being leaked? For what purpose?"
Winston has not been arrested or charged with any crime in conjunction with the investigation.
What happens next?
Meggs' pending decision on whether to press charges and pursue a conviction will largely determine the future course of events. While Meggs has the option of taking the case to a grand jury to determine charges, he has said he will not avail himself of that right. Instead, Meggs will make the decision himself.
The problem for Meggs: An apparent lack of evidence of assault. The DNA shows that there was sexual contact between Winston and the accuser, but Winston has admitted to consensual sex with her. The victim's family has said that she was not intoxicated, eliminating the possibility that she was incapable of consent. Despite intense media scrutiny, no other physical evidence has been reported; even if such evidence exists, the flaws in the Tallahassee police investigation could cast serious doubt on its authenticity. Without any other physical evidence, the case devolves to the alleged victim's word against Winston's, and Meggs would need to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt with just that.
Meggs has reportedly interviewed the victim. There are no reports indicating he has talked with Winston or the claimed eyewitnesses, and Winston has reportedly declined to talk. Should Meggs decide not to press charges against Winston, the Florida State quarterback can presumably continue playing for the Seminoles.
If charges are filed, though, they are almost certain to include a felony count. Florida State would not necessarily be forced to suspend Winston, even if a felony is charged. As Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday, the Florida State athletic department code of conduct contains a loophole that could keep Winston on the field:
The FSU athletic department code of conduct includes a provision allowing for exceptions to the suspension rule.
The Seminoles' athletic policy manual reads: "In the event the student-athlete is charged with a felony, absent extraordinary circumstances as determined by the administration, he/she will not be permitted to represent FSU Athletics in game competition until such time as the charge is resolved and all court, university and athletics department conditions for reinstatement have been met."
It is unclear what could constitute "extraordinary circumstances as determined by the administration."
FSU could find "extraordinary circumstances" and allow Winston to stay eligible. In that event, the cynic would immediately point to the BCS National Championship as the potential circumstance.
For now, though, all we can do is wait. The best insight as to what happens next is likely this story by Pat Forde and Dan Wetzel, which digs into the workings of Meggs' office and the culture of Tallahassee.