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Attorney: Civil suits against FSU's Winston, Tallahassee PD coming soon

Jameis Winston's accuser could begin the process of filing civil lawsuits against the Florida State quarterback and the Tallahassee Police Department in the next few days, her attorney said Thursday.

Pasco County-based attorney Patricia Carroll said the accuser and her family plan to send a letter to Tallahassee police early next week that alleges the department wronged the woman. That's the first legal step toward filing a civil suit against a government entity under Florida laws — a lengthy process that could take months before reaching a courtroom.

"We've exhausted all our other avenues," said Carroll, who elaborated in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday.

Carroll said she sent letters to Gov. Rick Scott, the Attorney General's Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Tallahassee police's department of internal affairs, asking them to look into the handling of a sexual assault claim made in December 2012 against Winston.

"It is blatantly obvious that the detective working this case (Scott Angulo) did everything in his power to NOT investigate and to protect Jameis Winston," the accuser's mother wrote to Scott in a letter obtained by the Times under open-records laws. "As a person who is the governor of a state, I would think you could spend 5 minutes looking at this file and see Mr. Angulo sabotaged this investigation."

The governor's office never responded, Carroll said. The Attorney General's Office and the FDLE declined to investigate, and the Tallahassee police maintained the department followed its procedures. "They have no problem with the way they conducted the investigation," Carroll said. "I take issue with that."

Carroll first called for an outside investigation into the Tallahassee Police Department last month, a week after the State Attorney's Office declined to press charges in the case. In a news conference in Zephyrhills, Carroll questioned how police handled blood and urine samples and said the accuser — at the time a 19-year-old FSU student from Pasco County — was treated like a suspect, not a victim.

Since those public statements, Carroll said she has heard from the families of two other FSU students who also criticized how Tallahassee police treated their rape allegations.

"One was even discouraged from contacting her parents," the accuser wrote in a letter to the Attorney General's Office and obtained through an open-records request. "Those cases were also closed without any proper investigation."

Tallahassee police reiterated Thursday that no internal investigation is necessary.

"The reports in this case document that our department took the case seriously, processed evidence and conducted an investigation based on information available at that time," department spokesman David Northway said in an email.

Winston's attorney, Tim Jansen, did not return a phone message. He has said Winston did nothing wrong and the sex was consensual. Winston, 20, who won the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman, also has said he did nothing wrong.

Unlike a criminal case, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, a civil case requires the accuser to meet a lower standard, that it was more likely than not that Winston had sex with her without her consent.

Jansen said last month that the accuser's story had many problems, including statements from two witnesses that contradict her claims, which could make a civil case difficult: "Of course Mr. Winston will defend, and if he has to, we will take action on his behalf."

Carroll said the accuser is also exploring a civil suit against FSU, alleging it might have violated federal Title IX laws.

Times staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this report.

Attorney: Civil suits against FSU's Winston, Tallahassee PD coming soon 01/09/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 10, 2014 11:05am]
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