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Lawyer: Witnesses can clear Winston

Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston is being investigated in an attack on a woman last December.
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Kevin Vaughan

Kevin Vaughan is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post. He is the co-author of "The Ledge: An Inspirational Story of Friendship and Survival." Follow him at kevinvaughan.net and on Twitter.

 
   
 

The attorney for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston asserted Thursday evening that he has two witnesses who can provide information to authorities that would likely clear the Heisman Trophy front-runner in an alleged December 2012 sexual assault.

Attorney Tim Jansen told FOX Sports that the two witnesses — one of whom was interviewed Thursday and one of whom is scheduled to talk to investigators on Friday — would provide “exculpatory” information to authorities.


Evidence is termed “exculpatory” when it favors a suspect and tends to clear him or her of guilt.

Winston, a redshirt freshman who has dazzled the college football world with his play this fall, is being investigated in an attack on a woman reported to Tallahassee, Fla., police last Dec. 7. He has not been arrested nor charged with any crime, and Florida State officials have said his status for the No. 2 Seminoles’ game against Syracuse has not changed.

Jansen has said he first learned of the case and Winston’s status as a possible suspect last February. But he said that at that time he was told the case had been closed.

Then, on Wednesday, he was told it had been reopened.

William Meggs, the state’s attorney for that district of Florida, confirmed that no one in his office knew anything about the report until Wednesday. Asked whether it should have been brought to his office earlier, he declined to comment, referring questions to Tallahassee police.

Officer Dave Northway, a department spokesman, declined to comment.

Meggs said he could not estimate how long it would take him to decide whether charges should be filed.

“Obviously, we’ll work as fast as we can,” Meggs said. “There are things that have to be done that have not been done.”

He would not elaborate.

He also said that his decision would be based, at least in part, on the wishes of the victim.

“We would consider what the victim wants us to do,” Meggs said.

According to a heavily redacted copy of the police report, which does not identify Winston, the victim alleged a sexual assault using force between 1:30 and 2 on that Friday morning. Police officers responded to an apartment, where the victim described the attacker as standing between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11 and weighing 240 pounds. The Florida State media guide lists Winston as 6-foot-4, 228.

The report also lists the suspect’s name as “unknown,” indicating that the victim and the suspect did not have a prior relationship.

FOX Sports has learned that Winston was not identified as a possible suspect in the assault until after the spring semester began in January.

According to the police report, investigators recovered evidence from the body of the victim, but it is not clear whether that included genetic material.

Numerous Heisman Trophy watchers have called Winston the current front-runner. So far in 2013 — his first year as a starter — he has completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 2,661 yards and 26 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He also has three rushing touchdowns.

Florida State, 9-0, sits No. 2 in both the BCS standings and the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Tagged: Florida State, Florida

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