ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. (AP) — A lawyer for the woman who accused Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of sexual assault asked Friday for Florida’s attorney general to independently examine the rape investigation, claiming it was riddled with problems.
Attorney Patricia Carroll called on the attorney general to investigate the Tallahassee Police Department’s handling of the case, saying that detectives failed to interview key witnesses, used unreliable and incomplete forensic tests and never tested the alleged victim’s blood for the presence of date-rape drugs.
“It appears to me to be a complete failure of an investigation of a rape case,” Carroll said during the 90-minute news conference.
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But it is unlikely that any action will be taken by the state to revisit the case. Only Florida Gov. Rick Scott can appoint a special prosecutor to review how the case was handled — and Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Scott’s office, described the previous investigation as thorough.
In response to Carroll’s criticisms, Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs on Friday defended his office’s decision to not charge Winston, but he also acknowledged “shortcomings” with the case. He said there are still questions about what happened between Winston and the woman who accused him of rape.
Meggs at one point remarked that there was “evidence of a sexual assault” although he later clarified that to mean statements from the victim as well as physical evidence such as Winston’s DNA being found in the underwear of the accuser.
Meggs said the decision to not charge Winston was based on the question of whether enough evidence existed to prove a rape charge — and his investigators concluded there was not. Last week, he said there were too many gaps in the accuser’s story.
“I think something happened that night, but whether or not it was to the level we could file a charge, we never got there,” he said.
Meggs said that he was not opposed to someone else investigating the case because he doubts they will reach a different conclusion.
Carroll’s news conference came one day before the scheduled announcement of the Heisman Trophy winner. Winston, a 19-year-old who led FSU to a No. 1 ranking and a shot at a national championship, is a favorite to win.
Appearing with four other Heisman finalists at a news conference Friday in New York, Winston told reporters he knew he would be vindicated and added, “I knew I did nothing wrong.”
Carroll said the Heisman had nothing to do with her client’s accusations. Winston redshirted during the 2012 season and was not playing when the woman accused him of rape.
“I’m not focusing on football,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not about football. Sometimes it’s about rape.”
The lead detective got a search warrant for her client’s cellphone and social media accounts but failed to do the same for Winston and his two companions immediately after the accusations were made, Carroll said.
“It was very obvious as this progressed that we didn’t feel like we were going to get a proper investigation,” Carroll said.
Investigators also focused an unusual amount of attention on the fact the alleged victim had the DNA of her boyfriend on her underpants in addition to that of Winston, Carroll said. The consensual sexual encounter with the boyfriend happened before the encounter involving Winston and wouldn’t have been allowed to be introduced in a courtroom, she said. State law does not allow defendants to call an alleged victim’s past sexual behavior into question.
Winston’s attorney has said any sex between his client and the accuser was consensual.
Carroll also criticized Tallahassee Police for not submitting the woman’s sexual assault kit to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab until Jan. 17, 2013 — 39 days after it was taken. The attorney questioned whether evidence was properly preserved during those 39 days. She said that medical records released to the news media contain less information than those same medical records obtained by the family.
“The bulk of the investigation was into the rape victim,” Carroll said. “I’m looking at an investigation of a rape victim, not a rape suspect.”
Tallahassee police have defended their handling of the case.
“The case is closed, and we continue to support Mr. Meggs as we have done throughout this process,” David Northway, a spokesman for the Tallahassee Police Department, said Friday.
Carroll also questioned Meggs’ reliance on two witnesses: Winston’s teammates Christopher Casher and Ronald Darby. Both men said they were with Winston when the accuser struck up a conversation with him at a bar, and both men told police they saw Winston having consensual sex with the woman in his bedroom.
Carroll said her client watched the news conference in which Meggs’ announced he would not prosecute the case with her parents and cried.
“She’s not doing well, but she’s a strong girl,” said Carroll. “She’s in the middle of a media storm. Her life’s been turned upside down. She’s going to try to continue to heal.”