FSU’s Winston unlikely to be charged with sexual assault
A decision is coming Thursday in the sexual assault investigation of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston — and all indications are that he will not be charged.
State Attorney Willie Meggs has called a press conference at 2 p.m. ET to announce the results of his investigation into an incident at an off-campus apartment on Dec. 7, 2012.
“All my intuition tells me there won’t be charges filed,” said Chuck Hobbs, a former prosecutor in Meggs’ office who is now a criminal defense attorney.
That sentiment was echoed repeatedly Wednesday night by attorneys and others in Tallahassee who have been observing the investigation.
A woman initially told police that she was sexually assaulted by an unknown assailant — then identified Winston about five weeks later as the man who attacked her. At the time, he was a highly-regarded redshirt player for the Seminoles, but had not appeared in a game.
But Tallahassee police shelved the case in February, contending that the woman did not want to cooperate with investigators — an assertion that her attorney later disputed.
Then in November — with Winston having led Florida State to No. 2 in the polls and enjoying front-runner status in the Heisman Trophy discussion — the case took on a new urgency after multiple news agencies requested the police report. Tallahassee police turned the case over to Meggs, and his office launched a new investigation.
In recent weeks, Meggs has said that his investigators were conducting interviews and having laboratory tests conducted as part of their investigation. And he has also said it was unusual that his office was not informed about the case back in the early stages of the investigation.
Winston, 19, has led Florida State to three big wins while at the center of a media storm.
Most recently, the discovery of his DNA on evidence collected at the time of the alleged assault was greeted as no surprise by his attorney, Tim Jansen. He said Winston and the woman had a consensual encounter.
The woman’s attorney, Patricia Carroll, fired back with a statement that said there was nothing consensual about the encounter — that it was a rape.
Hobbs, echoing the sentiments of other attorneys in Tallahassee, cited several reasons why he believes charges won’t be filed:
First, he said, it would be unusual for Meggs to call a press conference to announce that he was filing charges. Instead, he would expect Meggs to simply swear out a warrant and have Winston turn himself in.
Second, he said, if Meggs were facing the prospect of a prosecution, he would be circumspect about what he said in public — an idea that is counter to a public press conference.
Finally, he does not believe Meggs would file charges and plan an arrest just hours before Winston is scheduled to leave with his Seminoles teammates for Charlotte, where they play Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship against Duke.
In addition, Tim Jansen, Winston’s attorney, has planned a press conference for 7 p.m. Thursday — just 45 minutes before the Seminoles are scheduled to leave to Charlotte. And he has said that Winston will be there and will make a statement — another factor in the growing speculation that no charges will be filed.
Florida State trustee Leslie Pantin said Wednesday night that he and other members of the school’s governing board had not been briefed on Meggs’ decision.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that justice will be served,” Pantin said.