Sexual Assault Allegations
Misconception 1: Winston most likely got away with rape thanks to protection from the Tallahassee Police Department and Florida State University.
There is no question that the TPD investigation left much to be desired. But the implication that these entities tried to protect a then-unknown FSU football player goes against recent precedent.
Starting wide receiver Greg Dent was charged with second-degree sexual assault—of which he would ultimately be acquitted—in the summer of 2013. Dent was dismissed from the football team and certainly not “protected” by Tallahassee law enforcement.
Florida State has not been shy about dismissing high-profile players in the past, as Greg Reid, Preston Parker, and Jarmon Fortson can attest. Other dismissals under Jimbo Fisher include Arrington Jenkins, Ira Denson, and Avis Commack.
State Attorney Willie Meggs also has a well-earned reputation for not looking the other way when it comes to Florida State athletes and is on the record saying student-athletes should be held to a higher standard than regular citizens:
"To whom much is given, much should be expected," Meggs told the Sun-Sentinel in 2003. "Sometimes we ought to hold those folks to a little bit higher standard. Thousands of people would give their right arm to play for FSU or Notre Dame or Miami or Georgia, and when somebody messes up doing something stupid, it's a shame."
For example, in 2003, Meggs pursued a rape charge against FSU defensive lineman Travis Johnson, who was acquitted by a six-woman jury in all of 30 minutes. If there is any doubt, Meggs has shown he tends toward charges.
"Sometimes we ought to hold those folks to a little bit higher standard." —Willie Meggs, Florida State Attorney
Why then was Winston not suspended, dismissed, or charged with a crime? We do know that the rate of false rape accusations is quite low; the best estimates put the rate around 3–8%. Because this case actually has more hard evidence than the vast majority of sexual assault cases, and a close look at the evidence indicates the sexual encounter in question was consensual:
1) Winston’s accuser claims she had been too inebriated or drugged to give consent, meaning the encounter was therefore a sexual assault.
2) The toxicology screen and blood alcohol tests show otherwise, however. The woman’s blood alcohol content was .048 approximately three hours after the incident, “not very high” to quote Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs. That extrapolates to around .1 at the time of the alleged assault, just above the .08 Florida legal limit for impaired driving. The toxicology screen came back clean.
3) The woman’s friends testified that she was not overly intoxicated or otherwise affected when she left the bar with Winston and his friends.
5) Casher and Darby also testify to having observed the woman performing oral sex on Winston and that she was on top during the sexual encounter. This corresponds to the physical examination conducted three hours after the encounter, which showed redness on the knees but no other fresh bruises.
6) Casher was placed on FSU probation for—by his own admission—videorecording part of the encounter, though the video was erased shortly afterwards.
7) The woman also lied to investigators about the source of a second semen sample found on her shorts, claiming she had borrowed the shorts from her roommate—her team also tried to get the roommate to lie to investigators about the ownership of the shorts. The sample was in fact traced to the woman’s boyfriend, a football player at a MAC school in the state of Ohio, who was identified by the State Attorney's Office investigators without the woman's cooperation. (NOTE: This second semen sample was not from the same day as many have wrongly suggested; it was rather from an encounter on an unknown earlier date.)
The case essentially boiled down to the woman’s word against the toxicology/blood alcohol results, the word of her friends, and two eyewitnesses. That’s why Winston was never charged or suspended. However, as stated in our December summary of the evidence, although it was not sexual assault, the details of the encounter do not reflect well on Winston or his roommates.
For a variety of reasons, these details of the case have not been widely reported in the national media, however, leading to a widespread impression among the public that Winston got away with sexual assault. The resulting outrage has led to calls for draconian punishments for any other perceived misdeed as a way to atone for this perceived injustice. This is not the first time that has happened. As FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher observed on Monday, the Duke Lacrosse case was accompanied by similar outrage and calls for judgment, only to be proven false many months later.
Misconception 2: Florida State did not perform its legal obligations under Title IX relating to the Winston allegations.
This is a more difficult question to assess, as Title IX indicates that a school is obliged to conduct a prompt investigation when a "responsible employee" of the school knew or reasonably should have known about allegations of student sexual violence. The question arises because FSU athletic department officials did not immediately notify the school’s Title IX office after being alerted to the complaint in January, 2013. That should be standard protocol, but it appears that the athletic department officials felt they had adequately investigated the allegations after talking to the two eyewitnesses and learning from Winston's attorney that the case was not moving forward. The facts that FSUPD had already been notified and the accusation was a month old at that point further muddy the situation.
That the athletic department officials in question did not notify the Title IX office thus appears to be the result of incompetence (doing their own preliminary investigation and concluding there was nothing to the accusation and therefore no reason to report anything up the chain) rather than an attempted cover-up on the university side. One of the things the OCR's investigation will have to consider is whether the athletic department officials' interviews with the eyewitnesses constituted a sufficient university investigation under Title IX requirements.
It should also be noted that the encounter happened off-campus and in circumstances unrelated to any university program, which means the school's responsibility to investigate under Title IX requirements is not clearly established. The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights' posted "Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence" addresses this under section F-4.
Schools are responsible to "process [note: not "investigate"] all complaints of sexual violence regardless of where they occurred, to determine whether the conduct occurred in the context of an education program or activity or had continuing effects on campus or in an off-campus education program or activity." In this case, the alleged assault was clearly not in the context of an education program or activity. According to FSU's open letter, the school did offer the woman the opportunity to switch classes but was assured that this was unnecessary as there were no continuing effects on campus at that time.
The other problem is that, despite being advised of her ability to do so, Winston's accuser did not file a complaint with the school until many months later. According to Florida State's Title IX protocols, the complainant in such cases must file a complaint with the university for a school investigation to take place. Essentially, if neither party speaks with the school, the school has insufficient material or evidence to engage in any sort of investigation of an off-campus incident. Following is the statement on protocols from the FSU Student Handbook:
"All FSU faculty and staff shall report every incident of sexual battery to the FSU Police (644-1234). It is the responsibility of each faculty and staff member to assist student victims in reporting incidents to the FSU Police. If the victim chooses not to provide evidence to the police, faculty and staff must still notify the FSU Police Department of the happening of the alleged sexual battery without identifying the victim, as soon as practicable. Both the FSU Police Department and the Victim Advocate Program will report statistical data on sexual battery and attempted sexual battery to their respective Vice Presidents, who will then notify the President of the University.
Any individual within the University community who has been sexually battered on campus or off campus should immediately seek assistance from the FSU Victim Advocate Office (644-7161 or 644-2277) or other victim services of their choosing. The Victim Advocate Office will provide confidential crisis intervention and information regarding the victim's needs or options. All Services of the Victim Advocate Program are confidential and a police report does not have to be filed to receive support.
"If the victim chooses to prosecute the alleged perpetrator, the FSU Police Department should be contacted immediately (644-1234). Incidents occurring off campus will be reported to the Law Enforcement Agency with jurisdiction (Tallahassee Police Department or Leon County Sheriff).
"Victims are encouraged to seek medical attention and an evidence collection exam at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital emergency room. Because physical evidence is extremely important in the prosecution of sexual battery, it is strongly recommended that victims do not change their clothing or clean their body prior to evidence collection."
But FSU says the woman did not cooperate with school attempts to launch an investigation until 20 months after the event. Instead, the woman’s attorneys sent the university a litigation hold in February, 2014, indicating that the school would eventually face a lawsuit from her side. It was not until August of 2014 that the woman began to cooperate with Florida State’s requests, enabling any investigation from the school’s side to move forward.
The Crab Legs Incident
Misconception: Jameis Winston brazenly shoplifted and Florida State did nothing to punish him.
Winston was cited for misdemeanor shoplifting after walking out of a local Publix without paying for approximately $32 worth of steamed crab and crawfish. His story—that he is used to Winn-Dixie’s arrangement where he pays for the seafood while it is being prepared and simply forgot to pay on his way out—is plausible but unlikely.
It is rather more likely that Winston had a hook-up to get free food in this case, but he certainly can’t say that, nor would it affect the result of the citation. It is highly unlikely that Winston simply decided to try his hand at petty theft, especially given his public status. Yes, if Winston indeed accepted a hook-up as seems most likely, that's shoplifting, but such hook-ups are unfortunately fairly typical of college students, who often tend to regard them as different from taking an item off the shelf and walking out of the store without paying.
The misconception is that Winston was not punished by FSU for shoplifting. It is true that he was not suspended for football, but Winston is one of the top closers in the country on the baseball diamond and was suspended for several games until his community service related to the citation was completed. It would have made little sense to suspend him from two sports for the same citation, though many seem to ignore that fact.
Shouting Obscene Phrases
Winston was suspended for the Clemson game this year after witnesses tweeted about him shouting an obscene Internet meme on the Florida State campus. It was a severe punishment for a stupid but by no means illegal stunt, but we are on the record that the punishment was essentially right in this case.
Misconception: Winston Showed How Clueless He Is By Coming out in Pads for Warmups
This has been repeated ad nauseum in the national media, but Jimbo Fisher went out of his way to correct this misconception after the fact, pointing out that the mistake had been due to the equipment staff laying out Winston's uniform on Friday before the administration had decided to extend Winston's suspension from a half to the full game late Friday night. The coaching staff had been unaware of this and didn't communicate to Winston that he wasn't to be in pads, so he did what he thought he was supposed to do. Fisher explained that it wasn't Winston's fault but rather due to a miscommunication.
And Winston wasn't exactly off base given how FSU had handled a similar suspension earlier in the year. Wide receiver Bobo Wilson was suspended for the first game against Oklahoma State but traveled with the team, dressed in pads, and warmed up with the team. Fisher has also said that he believes the toughest penalty for a star player is to have to stand on the sideline in pads but never be able to go on the field to help his team—which is why Wilson was dressed out against Oklahoma State. This was obviously different due to the extra attention in the Winston situation, but Winston can't be justifiably blamed for coming out in pads in this case. Nearly every team in the country has their suspended players stand on the sideline, so that aspect was also not out of the norm. What was out of the norm was the number of times Winston was showed on the sideline by the TV crew.
The latest investigation involves a large number of Winston autographs found through the website of James Spence Authentication (JSA), which also certified more than 500 autographs of Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who was suspended last week amid allegations that he had been paid to sign items for a memorabilia dealer.
Misconception 1: Winston has been connected to the same memorabilia dealer who allegedly paid Gurley.
This misconception has arisen due to misidentification of JSA with the dealer who had JSA authenticate his merchandise. JSA is an authentication company, not a dealer. JSA is one of two major sports memorabilia authentication companies in the USA, so it is no surprise that the company is connected to items from both players
Bryan Allen, the dealer who claims he paid Gurley for his signatures, has no known connection to Winston.
Misconception 2: The various sequential series of authenticated autographs found on JSA are evidence that Winston was paid, meaning he is likely to be suspended.
Last year, JSA authenticated similar series of items from Jadeveon Clowney, Braxton Miller, Sammy Watkins, and Johnny Manziel, among others. Only Manziel was implicated for selling his autographs after photos emerged of Manziel at an offseason signing session.
The sequential numbers do not mean all the items involved were signed at exactly the same time, either, as items are serialized after they are authenticated. Someone could, for example, get Winston to sign items on five different occasions, submit the items as they receive them, and then receive them all back at once with consecutive serial numbers.
Winston has been tireless when it comes to signing autographs, as these photographs from the ACC Baseball Tournament suggest. Winston’s autograph line extended into the walkway above the first section, with many fans bringing multiple items to be signed.
This does not mean Winston did not get paid for his autograph. But without evidence beyond the circumstantial sequential authentications (video, cancelled checks, photo evidence, etc.) there’s no way to prove it, and unlike the Gurley situation, nobody has come forward claiming to have paid Winston or any proof that he took money.
Jameis Winston Syracuse Postgame