Winston case: How Tallahassee PD botched its investigation

Jameis Winston was cleared of sexual assault allegations before leading Florida State to the 2013 national title.

Melina Vastola/Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Oh boy, The New York Times just released a major piece Wednesday examining the Jameis Winston "investigation" that tells us what we already knew — the Tallahassee police department completely and totally bungled its investigation into Winston’s case.

You need to read the story for yourself, but I want to dive into the details a bit more because there’s so much here that it’s difficult to break it all down.

So, first, read the story.

Now, let’s examine the four biggest aspects of The New York Times piece:

1. There was a video of a portion of the alleged sexual assault

Let’s start here: If the video was of a consensual sexual act, why would you delete it? Also, when did you delete it? Why did you decide to delete it? Did you share it with anyone prior to deleting the video? We don’t know because police never reviewed the text messages of Winston and his roommates. 

I mean, this is unbelievable. 

“Why that was done (failure to review the text messages), I don’t really know the answer to that,” said former prosecutor Adam Ruiz. “To me, that’s a no-brainer.”

If the Tallahassee police had done their job, they might have recovered this video and had actual evidence of the alleged incident. They could watch the video and perhaps decide for themselves whether this was a question of fact for a jury.

Then, if charges were filed, the jury could review the tape. If no charges were ever filed, then there could be clear evidence that no crime was committed. This ends entirely the "he said, she said" nature of the case.


It’s unfathomable that it took nearly a year for investigators to discover that there had ever been a video.

Plus, how often do exculpatory videos get deleted? Doesn’t seem to happen very often. 

Amazingly, he didn’t request video footage from the 30 bar security cameras from that night. Despite being told that the alleged victim had ridden in a car with a Florida State football player named Chris, who used his student ID to get a discount on the cab fare, it appears he did not take 30 seconds to do a Google search on the Florida State football team and identify this player.

I’m not exactly Columbo, but there’s one football player on FSU’s roster named Chris.

Bingo, you’re ready to proceed with questioning.

This infuriated the prosecutor in the case, Willie Meggs. He told the Times: “How long does it take to identify a freshman football player — about 10, 15, 16 seconds? Anybody that looked at this case would say you get a report at 2 in the morning, by noon you could have had the defendant identified and talked to.”

Meggs continued, “I am convinced that we would have identified the cab driver that night and had an interview with him. Don’t know what we would have learned, but we would have learned the truth. I am also convinced that had it been done properly, we would have had the video from Potbelly’s (the bar).”

3. Winston wasn’t asked for his DNA and was initially contacted via cell phone about the crime

Why wasn’t Winston asked for his DNA?

According to NYT’s account from the accuser’s lawyer, the reason given by the Tallahassee police was that it might generate publicity.

When the police department finally got around to contacting Winston — after he was identified by the alleged victim — they did so via a phone call. Winston answered the call and said he had to go to baseball practice and would talk with investigators later. Of course, Winston never talked with investigators. Instead, he hired an attorney and refused to cooperate any further with the investigation.

This set Meggs off: “It’s insane to call a suspect on the phone. First off, you don’t know who you are talking to.” He said he would have gone straight to the baseball field.

“If you walked up to Jameis Winston in the middle of baseball practice and said, ‘Come here, son, I need to talk to you,’ he would have said, ‘Yes, sir,’” Meggs told the NYT.

Meggs added: “He’s not in custody, you don’t have to read him his rights. He might have said, ‘I didn’t have sex that night.’”

Of course, no one knows what Winston would have said since he still hasn’t said anything at all.

4. The Florida State athletic department knew of this investigation in January 2013

Did the larger university know as well?

If not, why not? After all, you think the football team might have a duty to disclose that a student athlete was being investigated on accusations of sexual assault.

It’s probably time for a full-scale investigation of the Florida State athletic department to accompany the full-scale investigation of the university at large.