Prosecutor decries police handling of Winston rape probe
William Meggs, the Florida state’s attorney charged with handling the investigation into the allegations of rape made against Jameis Winston last year, did not hide the fact that, in his opinion, the initial investigation was not handled properly by the Tallahassee Police Department.
In a New York Times “expose” published Wednesday morning, Meggs was on the offensive yet again. Meggs assailed the TPD probe on multiple fronts, from failing to readily identify a witness -- who also happened to be one of Winston’s teammates -- to apparent nonchalance when it came to a crucial tip involving a taxi cab to its handling of Winston in the early stages of the investigation.
On the night in question, in December of 2012, Winston and at least two of his teammates, Chris Casher and Ronald Darby, were at a Tallahassee bar named Potbelly’s. It was there that the three met up with the alleged victim, had a few drinks and then took off in a taxi with the woman. At some point a few hours, a 911 call was made, alleging she was raped.
It was the investigation -- or lack thereof -- that has Meggs speaking out more than four months after his office decided against filing charges against Winston. And, in somewhat of an unexpected turn, Meggs made his strongest comments to date on the case:
-- On the TPD failing to find Casher, who allegedly videotaped a portion of the encounter, in a timely manner, possibly leading to the loss of key evidence:
Casher allegedly deleted the video “a couple of days” after Winston’s encounter with the alleged victim, well before he was ever contacted and interviewed by police.-- One of the three football players used an FSU ID to get a discounted fare for the taxi. TPD investigators failed to find the driver of the cab, as well as failed to secure videotape from myriad security cameras positioned in and around the Tallahassee bar that could have shed some light on the incident:
“I am convinced that we would have identified the cabdriver that night and had an interview with him,” Mr. Meggs said. “Don’t know what we would have learned, but we would have learned the truth. I am also convinced that had it been done properly, we would have had the video from Potbelly’s.
By the time the prosecutor [Meggs] asked for that video, the tape had long since been recycled.
-- The TPD’s initial encounter with Winston regarding the allegations came via the telephone, which allowed the player the opportunity to “lawyer up” before he could be questioned:
Mr. Meggs said he was shocked that the police investigator’s first attempt to contact Mr. Winston was by telephone. “He says, ‘I have baseball practice, I’ll get with you later,’” Mr. Meggs said. That call allowed Mr. Winston to hire a lawyer who told him not to talk.
“It’s insane to call a suspect on the phone,” Mr. Meggs said. “First off, you don’t know who you are talking to.” He said he would have gone straight to the baseball field. “If you walked up to Jameis Winston in the middle of baseball practice and said, ‘Come here, son, I need to talk to you,’ he would have said, ‘Yes, sir.’”
In summation, Meggs stated that the TPD “just missed all the basic stuff that you are supposed to do” during the course of an investigation of this type, although he stopped well short of accusing the department in general and the investigating officer specifically of willful misconduct because of Winston’s status as a Seminoles football player. Meggs was also quick to caution, as the Times wrote, that “a better investigation might have yielded the same result,” which was no charges being filed against Winston.
In mid-November, after reports of the probe had surfaced publicly, Meggs vowed that his office would get to the bottom of the allegations, a report of which had only recently been forwarded to him by the TPD -- 11 months after the alleged rape and only after an open records request from news organizations seemingly forced the department’s hand. Three weeks later in a press conference announcing no charges would be filed against Winston, Meggs said his investigation didn’t find enough evidence to prove that the sexual encounter between the player and the alleged victim was not consensual.
A short time later, the attorney for Winston’s accuser called for an investigation into the TPD’s handling of the case. The feds have also reportedly gotten involved on the university side of the situation, with reports coming to light earlier this month that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched its own investigation into FSU’s handling of the case.