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Heisman hopeful Jameis Winston avoids charges in sex assault case

FILE - In this Sept. 21 2013 file phoFloridState quarterback Jameis Winstwatches from sidelines during second half an NCAA college

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2013, file photo, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston watches from the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Bethune-Cookman in Tallahassee, Fla. Search warrants, released Thursday, dec. 5, 2013, in the sexual assault investigation of Winston indicate the woman told police she was raped at an apartment after a night of drinking at a bar. (AP Photo/Phil Sears, File)

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Updated: December 5, 2013 2:00PM



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will not be charged after an investigation into an alleged sexual battery, State Attorney William Meggs said today.

“We have carefully examined the evidence in this case and have concluded no charges will be filed in this case,” Meggs said Thursday. “We prosecute the cases that we have evidence on.”

Winston had been under investigation since Nov. 13 in connection with the alleged Dec. 7, 2012 incident. The case did not reach the desk of the State Attorney William Meggs until nearly 11 months after the alleged incident, and only then after media outlets made public records requests to view the case file from the Tallahassee police.

“Obviously it would have been somewhat better if we had been involved a little bit earlier,” Meggs said.

Winston’s attorney Tim Jansen denied the allegation to USA TODAY Sports.

Winston, a redshirt freshman, has quarterbacked Florida State to the top of the Bowl Championship Series Standings and the No. 1 ranking in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll and is considered the top contender to win the Heisman trophy on Dec. 14.

Florida State is scheduled to leave Tallahassee on Thursday night for Charlotte, site of Saturday’s ACC Championship. Two days later at 5 p.m., Heisman trophy ballots are due.

Winston submitted a DNA sample on Nov. 14, according to Jansen, and that sample turned up positive a week later. However, Meggs said Thursday, “In the laboratory work that we did, there were DNA from males. One was identified as being Winston’s DNA and the other was unknown. Had we proceeded to trial, having an unknown DNA in a sexual assault case would be a problem.”

Meggs told USA TODAY Sports on Nov. 15 his office is supposed to review all sexual assault cases to ensure law enforcement agencies have properly investigated and collected evidence before deciding whether there’s probable cause to make an arrest. He was unsure why that didn’t happen in this case.

Asked Thursday whether police did not handle the case properly, Meggs said, “That will be something that others will have to decide. ... Obviously it would have been better if it had been handled differently earlier.”

“We could have identified the suspect a lot earlier if other things had been done.”

Meggs reopened the case Nov. 13 and assigned two investigators, though he acknowledged the 11-month lag time complicated matters. “It’s not as easy as it would be if we were fresh on it, obviously, but it’s not impossible,” Meggs said on Nov. 15. “I think we’re going to be able to reconstruct the events of that night.”

On Nov. 20, the family of the alleged victim issued a statement identifying Winston as her assailant and criticizing the Tallahassee Police Department’s handling of the investigation. The statement said a TPD detective working on the case warned the woman’s attorney that she would be “raked over the coals” if she proceeded with the complaint.

On Nov. 21, Jansen told reporters he was not surprised by the results of the DNA test but said the interaction between his client and the alleged victim was “consensual.”

The next day, the family of the alleged victim released a statement through their attorney questioning the timing and rationale behind comments Jansen and emphasizing that the alleged incident was not consensual. “To be clear, the victim did not consent,” attorney Patricia Carroll wrote in the statement, issued to USA TODAY Sports and other media outlets. “This was a rape.”

On Nov. 27, Tallahassee police released their account, in timeline form, of their handling of the alleged incident, one that countered statements by both attorneys.

Jansen said he had met with Meggs earlier that day “to speed things up”, though Meggs said “absolutely nothing” was accomplished by Jansen’s visit. Jansen expressed concern to USA TODAY Sports that the duration of the investigation could affect Winston’s chances of winning the Heisman trophy, awarded annually to college football’s most outstanding player.

On Thursday, shortly before Meggs’ announcement, Tallahassee police released search warrants that detail the accusations toward Winston, warrants that did not include Winston’s name.

Winston’s Heisman candidacy has seemingly been unaffected by the investigation. When the State Attorney’s inquiry launched, only 20 percent of Heisman voters surveyed by USA TODAY Sports said the existence of an investigation would affect their willingness to vote for Winston. And Winston’s lead in USA TODAY Sports’ weekly Heisman survey has grown every week since mid-November.



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