NYT Article on Winston Says Much, Adds Little

The New York Times published a lengthy article on the Jameis Winston investigation on Wednesday, highlighting flaws in the Tallahassee Police Department's handling of the case and others like it but containing little new information actually pertaining to the case.

The New York Times gave the Jameis Winston rape investigation a full longform treatment on Wednesday, with multiple Pulitzer Prize winner Walt Bogdanich trying his hand at exposing the flaws in the way the case was handled.

The article, while full of detail, unfortunately adds little to the discussion, instead rehashing the same details already discussed ad nauseum along with comments from parties connected with the accuser.

The one new piece of information presented in the piece involves another woman who had also sought counseling after a sexual encounter with Winston:

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.

Ms. Cappleman said that based on what she was told, a crime had not been committed. Nonetheless, Ms. Cappleman said she found the encounter troubling, because it "sheds some light on the way Mr. Winston operates" and on what may be "a recurring problem rather than some type of misunderstanding that occurred in an isolated situation."

This detail is certainly not flattering for Winston, and it coincides with our own conclusions about the case in December:

[One possibility based on the data] is that although the encounter was itself consensual, something happened that was emotionally disturbing enough for some reason that it affected the woman's memory and recall of the events. For example, the woman may have had such a negative emotional reaction to Casher's two intrusions and attempts to record the encounter that once her adrenaline died down, her recall of the evening was dramatically altered.

Such effects of highly emotional or stressful situations on memory are not unknown. This is, after all, the same mechanism underlying the often foggy memory of many rape victims. But a spotty memory does not indicate rape occurred—only that the situation was highly emotional or stressful. In this case, the evidence for consensual sex is overwhelming, but it may well be that the woman herself does not remember the evening that way, at least in the pieces she does remember.

In such a case, Winston would obviously be aware that he committed no crime, while the woman might legitimately believe otherwise. Human memory is notoriously unreliable, especially in highly emotional contexts. That is why getting as many independent facts as possible to ascertain what actually happened and not just what a given individual remembers. Memory and events are often different, with memory sometimes surprisingly malleable based on later events or conditions.

I continue to believe that the evidence suggests that Winston is not guilty of rape but that the sexual encounter was indeed traumatic to his accuser; this added piece of information only reinforces that conclusion.

I was surprised at the Times' handling of some of the details of the case, as it rather straightforwardly reports the woman's account without mentioning her own friends' contradictory reports on specific details.

I was similarly surprised by the brief mention of the Travis Johnson case at the end (without naming Johnson) as another example of FSU favoring its football players in such cases, despite the fact that Johnson was fully exonerated by an all-female jury.

Perhaps most surprising was the avoidance of any mention of the Greg Dent case, one in which a star football player was dismissed from the team and immediately charged with sexual assault.

All that notwithstanding, there is little doubt that the Winston case was mishandled, and the Times piece does successfully highlight that point. On that point, the piece comes to a similar conclusion to what we said in December:

Instead, because of the way this case was handled, Winston will never fully escape the fallout from these accusations, as he will always have to deal with the suspicions of some who will forever believe that he is yet another star football player who got away with rape. Similarly, the accuser would also have almost certainly benefited emotionally if video evidence had been obtained that demonstrated that her memory of the events differs from what actually happened. As a result, although I believe the collected evidence is sufficient to conclude that Winston is not guilty of sexual assault, complete justice was not and never will be accomplished in this case, and that is the biggest tragedy of all.

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