The New York Times released a long-form feature, written by Walt Bogdanich, on the sexual assault investigation of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who was accused of—but never charged with—having non-consensual sex with a female freshman student on the evening of December 7, 2012.
The investigation came to light in November 2013, toward the latter part of Winston's redshirt freshman season, which saw him lead the Seminoles to a national title and win the Heisman Trophy.
Prosecutor Willie Meggs, the Florida state attorney, decided not to move forward with the case in December 2013, more than a year after the alleged incident, saying at the time, "We've carefully examined all the evidence in this case and have concluded that no charges will be filed against anyone in this case," per Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com.
This NYT piece is perhaps the most comprehensive article written on the issue, detailing the mistakes that were made in the investigation and questioning whether the Tallahassee Police Department was trying to cover for its city's superstar.
Here are three takeaways from Wednesday's article:
A Second Woman Reportedly Sought Counseling After a Sexual Encounter With Winston
Before the rape accusation went public, but after the accuser made her initial accusation to the TPD, a second woman reported an alleged sexual encounter with Winston.
It is important to clarify that this second woman did not deem the encounter rape, claiming to have not said "no," but that she did feel violated, according to the university's victim advocate.
From the NYT:
A month before the rape accusation became public, the university’s victim advocate learned that a second woman had sought counseling after a sexual encounter with Mr. Winston, according to the prosecutor’s office. The woman did not call it rape — she did not say 'no.' But the encounter, not previously reported, 'was of such a nature that she felt violated or felt that she needed to seek some type of counseling for her emotions about the experience,' according to Georgia Cappleman, the chief assistant state attorney, who said she had spoken with the advocate but not with the woman.
The victim advocate was concerned enough about the episode to have alerted Mr. Winston’s first accuser.
This is the NYT story's most relevant bit of new information and might help substantiate the accuser's claims, as Winston now has an official public record with multiple claims of sexual misconduct against him.
Based on what she was told, Cappelman does not think a crime was committed (in the second report), although she did find it troubling because it "sheds some light on the way Mr. Winston operates" and because it may indicate "a recurring problem rather than some type of misunderstanding that occurred in an isolated situation."
A Video of the Alleged Assault Existed But Was Not Evidence
Winston was with two Florida State teammates—defensive lineman Chris Casher and defensive back Ronald Darby—during the alleged assault, and Casher took a video of the incident. However, because the Tallahassee Police Department acted so slowly, the video was deleted before it could be acquired as evidence.
From the NYT piece:
The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.
The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act.
Winston's DNA was found on the accuser's clothing, and he claims to have had consensual sex with her. A video of the incident would have thus been useful evidence, elucidating whether or not Winston was actually given consent in that moment.
The deletion of the video is suspicious, but not suspicious enough to prove Winston's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Why, then, wasn't the investigation started sooner, so the video could have been recovered, watched and used to inform the decision to file charges?
Even though the video was not a new allegation, Bogdanich does a good job expounding upon it and explaining how the TPD could have prevented its deletion.
Not Much New Information Came to Light
It is extremely unjust that the case took so long to unravel.
Bogdanich does a thorough job discrediting the TPD, citing some of its problematic work in other cases in addition to rehashing some of its well-documented screw-ups in this case. How they handled this investigation was certainly not fair to the accuser/potential victim.
However, it is also not new information.
The TPD has long been a subject of scorn during this saga even before the NYT story was released.
Per Schlabach, here is the statement released by Patricia Carroll, the alleged victim's attorney, after Meggs announced his decision not to charge Winston in December 2013:
The victim and her family appreciate the state attorney's efforts in attempting to conduct a proper investigation after an inordinate delay by the Tallahassee Police Department. The victim in this case had the courage to immediately report her rape to the police and she relied upon them to seek justice. The victim has grave concerns that her experience, as it unfolded in the public eye and through social media, will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting.
The piece released Wednesday was thorough and well-written. The research was sound, and its thesis—that the TPD screwed up an assault investigation involving a star quarterback at Florida State—is well-supported by the evidence it offered.
It just didn't add any new, bombshell allegations that change the tenor of Winston's case. It is today what it was yesterday and the day before; only now, it is likely to be back in the news, and these facts will make their way—presented as new information—to those who haven't followed the case as closely since the end of last year.
Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation wrote a good post detailing this angle, which includes the following tweets from Ira Schoffel, sports editor of the Tallahassee Democrat:
It's OK to believe TPD and FSU should have done more, and to also say that @nytimes piece was not great journalism. Not mutually exclusive.— Ira Schoffel/TDO.com (@IraSchoffel) April 16, 2014
Main problems with the Times piece are that 95 percent of it is rehash: Willie Meggs has been ripping the TPD investigation from day one.— Ira Schoffel/TDO.com (@IraSchoffel) April 16, 2014
The biggest difference between Winston's case before the NYT feature was published and Winston's case after the NYT feature was published is that now it has had an NYT feature published about it. Now more people have resumed the conversation.
The university released the following statement in response.