This is not a column about guilt or innocence.
I have neither the facts, nor the gall, to offer a strong opinion on the sexual allegation brought against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
And this is not a column regarding public support.
For those who are absolutely convinced they understand the motivations of this case, on one side or the other, there is little anyone can say that will convince them otherwise.
Instead, this is a column about trust.
Because, no matter how this case eventually turns out, there are some troubling signs concerning the decisions made by people in positions of power and responsibility.
Specifically, the Tallahassee Police Department.
And maybe Florida State University.
If you know nothing else about this case, you need to at least consider the time frame as provided by police, as well as the attorneys for the accuser and the accused.
December: The woman reports the alleged incident within two hours of it happening and, ESPN later reports, police obtain a sexual assault kit from her, including DNA samples.
January: The woman identifies Winston as the man who assaulted her.
February: Police tell Winston's attorney that the case is essentially closed. Police later say the accuser stopped cooperating in February.
Here's the problem:
What were the police doing in December and January? Why was a DNA sample never collected from Winston until media reports surfaced two weeks ago? Why were witnesses never interviewed? Why wasn't the State Attorney's Office ever notified?
These are not obscure questions. This is basic, by-the-book police work that, from the information we have at this point, seems completely bungled.
That's a disturbing thought.
In some ways, it's almost as disturbing as the alleged crime.
If this was an under-the-radar case of sexual assault allegations, the perceived lack of investigation would be troubling just from a competence standpoint. But when you consider it involved a high-profile athlete at a high-profile university, then it makes you wonder whether there were other motivations for closing the case with so little fuss.
The same point could also be made about FSU's involvement. Federal law requires a university to conduct a prompt investigation into sexual assault allegations. The university now says it is looking into the charges but, approaching the one-year anniversary, it's probably safe to say this is nobody's idea of prompt.
Does any of this mean Winston is guilty?
The State Attorney's Office is conducting its own investigation to decide whether the case even warrants charges.
But do you suppose that investigation might have been done more efficiently 11 months ago? And do you suppose, if this ever gets to trial, a defense attorney might have a field day poking holes in the investigative process?
For the most part, we grow up understanding that life can be messy. There are moments when we find trouble and moments when trouble finds us. The one thing we count on is that the people in charge of protecting us will be there when we need them most.
Those are the people we need to trust.