Florida State University’s star quarterback Jameis Winston will not face rape charges over the alleged sexual assault of a classmate last year, a prosecutor said on Thursday.
“No charges will be brought against anyone in this case,” Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs said in a press conference.
When asked if he thought Winston had received special treatment because he’s a star athlete, Meggs said: “I don’t think they do and we try to treat everyone the same.
“We did not feel we had sufficient evidence to bring the case to trial to prove it was not consensual,” Meggs said.
Meggs said the discovery of DNA from a second male associated with the event helped inform the decision not to bring charges against Winston. The identity of that third party has not been released.
In a statement released to the Tampa Bay Times after Meggs’ announcement, the accuser’s family said it appreciates Meggs attempt “to conduct a proper investigation after an inordinate delay by the Tallahassee Police Department. 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 accuser said she worries the decision not to press charges against Winston “will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting.”
Winston is the star player on Florida State’s top-ranked football team with a shot at the Heisman Trophy and a national title. Had he been charged with a felony he would have been automatically suspended from playing football until the case was resolved.
The case stems from an accusation made almost a year ago to the day, on Dec. 7, 2012, when a Florida State student called campus police at 3:30 a.m. to report that she’d been raped. According to a warrant released shortly before Meggs’ announcement, the woman reported having five or six shots at a bar, after which, she says, her memory became “very broken.” Meggs said the woman’s blood alcohol level at the time of the incident was about 1.0. The woman reported riding in a cab with a “nondescript black man” to an apartment where she was raped, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. The warrant says the woman tried to fight the man off and that at one point during the event another man entered the room and told the alleged assailant to stop.
Investigators have matched Winston’s DNA to that collected in evidence the day of the incident. Winston does not deny that he and the woman had sex but says it was consensual, something the woman’s family has denied.
The investigation was immediately handed over to Tallahassee police because the alleged attack took place at an off-campus apartment. The woman did not name Jameis Winston as her attacker until Jan. 10. By Feb. 11, Tallahassee police had declared the investigation inactive because the victim chose not to pursue charges, a contention the young woman’s family denies. Tallahassee police have faced criticism over allegations that they discouraged the woman from pursuing charges because of Winston’s star status in a community where college football is hugely popular. After intense media scrutiny the case was revived in October when Tallahassee police turned the investigation over to State Attorney Willie Meggs.