5 Takeaways From The New York Times' Damning Feature On The Jameis Winston Investigation
The investigation into the alleged rape of a Florida State University student by star quarterback and subsequent Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston didn't end in a satisfactory way for anyone. A year after the 19-year-old victim made the accusation, on Dec. 5 last year, Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs announced that Winston would not be charged because of lack of evidence. The case was closed, but it wasn't over.
A damning investigation by The New York Times published Wednesday shows just how many things went wrong during the hideously botched inquiry into the events of the night in question. The victim was treated badly, key evidence was missed, and Florida State took it upon themselves to do... basically nothing at all.
Yes, things worked out for Winston, in that he eventually wasn't charged. But if he was indeed telling the truth, and sex with the victim that night was consensual, then the botched investigation did him no favors either. Procrastination and incompetence meant vital evidence — that could have proved the case either way — was lost forever. Here are five takeaways from the NYT piece...
1. POLICE ALLOWED KEY EVIDENCE TO SLIP AWAY
The number of pieces of potential evidence that the Tallahassee police found out about and then proceeded to do nothing about is so ridiculous it's almost laughable. Almost. Here are just two heinous examples.
One of the first things the victim told the police was that she gave her phone number to a football player named Chris who told her he was looking for his roommate — who turned out to be Winston. The police investigator handling the case, Scott Angulo, only filed his first report more than two months after the alleged rape occurred. In it he made no mention of trying to find Chris.
He would have been very easy to find — the TPD interviewed both him and Winston just over a week before in connection with some damaged windows.
Angulo also made no attempt to look at the security footage from the bar, Potbelly's, where the victim became separated from her friends and ended up leaving with the three football players. By the time the police finally did ask for the tape, it had long since been taped over.
2. POLICE INVESTIGATED THE ACCUSER RATHER THAN THE ACCUSED
This seems to happen a lot in sexual assault investigations, and it's hideous. This instance seems particularly egregious. The police waited two weeks to contact Winston after the victim identified him as her attacker. And even then they just called him on the phone, giving him enough time to get a lawyer in place to start offering "no comment"s.
The police thoroughly investigated all electronic communication to and from the accuser in the time surrounding the alleged attack. But they never bothered to get hold of Winston's phone records, or the phone records of his two friends, Chris Casher and Ronald Darby, who were with him that night and backed up his story that sex with the victim was consensual.
If they had gotten hold of Casher's phone the day after the incident — which they potentially would have done if the police had followed up on the "Chris" that the victim said she met that night — then they may have found themselves with a key piece of evidence: Casher secretly videotaped part of the encounter between Winston and the victim.
3. THE DETECTIVE DROPPED THE CASE WITHOUT INFORMING THE VICTIM
The Tallahassee police have long maintained that they dropped the investigation because the victim was being "uncooperative" and no longer wished to prosecute the case. According to the Times investigation, not only did the client never say she wouldn't cooperate, the police didn't even inform her that they had suspended the investigation.
This led to the victim and another Florida State student filing complaints against the TPD that they had been the subject of investigation, rather than the accused, and that their cases had been prematurely dropped.
5. THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ALLOWED WINSTON TO PLAY A FULL SEASON WITHOUT ANSWERING ANY QUESTION
If you ever needed proof that Florida State cares about football more than anything else, then this is it. According to the Times, records indicate that all the way back in January 2013 the school's athletic department knew about the rape accusation against Winston. The assistant athletic director called the police to ask about the case.
Despite knowing about it, the athletic department allowed Winston to play the entire season without having to answer any questions whatsoever. University officials only asked Winston to discuss the incident after the championship game in January 2014, a whole year later.
5. THIS IS NOT THE ONLY SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE THE TALLAHASSEE P.D. HAS SCREWED UP
Or in fact the only investigation full stop that the Tallahassee Police Department has screwed up. During the time the police were supposed to be investigating the allegations against Winston, a grand jury was investigating police misconduct in an unrelated matter. The subsequent report characterized supervision by the Tallahassee police as "careless, uncaring, cavalier, and incompetent."
The Times investigation details another rape case involving a 19-year-old Florida State student that occurred in October 2013. Unfortunately for the Tallahassee police, the girl's father is a part-time deputy sheriff in another county, so he was fully aware of quite how much they botched the investigation.
Oh, and the police also told the girl not to tell her dad about it, apparently and asked her whether she was sure it was rape — or whether she "just didn't want a baby or wanted the morning after pill."