Sunday, June 17, 2018
Colleges

Many questions need answers in Winston matter

All we know is that we do not know. In the matter of Jameis Winston, the accused, it seems important to keep that in mind.

At this point, it doesn't matter how good his statistics are, and it doesn't matter where he stands in the Heisman Trophy race. It doesn't matter that he has that friendly smile or that he has that deadly arm. It doesn't matter whether you cheer for Florida State or the other guys.

In the world of Jameis Winston, all that matters are these ugly, brutal allegations of sexual assault.

That, and a police force that seems to have bumbled this case along the way.

As of Thursday night, Winston had not been charged, and the 11-month-old incident report has the key names redacted. Still, he has been accused. He has hired an attorney, and already his trial seems to have begun. That's often the way things work with celebrities.

If you are an FSU fan, you have probably rushed to Winston's defense by now. You have pointed out the flaws in the incident report. You have wondered why, in all these months, the police have never questioned Winston (according to his lawyer, at least). You have screamed, justifiably, about the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

And if you are a fan of, say, Florida, you are working overtime to toss the word "Criminoles" around on the blogs. You are stressing just how awful the crime of sexual assault is. And yes, you are following the path of the cynics who always seem to believe the charges in a situation such as this.

Somewhere in the middle, there is Winston.

For the sake of all that is good, let us hope he did not do this. If he did it, then once again we have been fooled by the engaging personality of an athlete. If he did it, a young woman tries to heal the wounds that were a result of his hand. If he did it — and again, the legal phrasings say that's a big if — then Winston deserves what he gets. Can we agree on that at least? After all, sexual assault is a lot more important than third down, isn't it?

With all that said, the incident report seems a little lightweight. Based on what the police wrote down Dec. 7, it's hard to believe Winston is going to be charged, let alone convicted. Not unless the victim is exceptionally believable when she tells her story.

For instance, the incident report says the assailant was 5 feet 11; Winston is 6-4. How do you explain that? Yes, maybe Winston, 19, had a friend with him, but if so, why doesn't the report say anything about that?

And while we're at it, if Winston hasn't been questioned over an 11-month period, why? No, it wouldn't be because he has been such a big shot at FSU during that time. He hasn't been. For the first eight months of the investigation, Winston was just a hyped prospect.

Here's a better question: From Dec. 7 until last week, did the police interview anyone?

And while we're at it, whatever happened to the evidence that supposedly was collected in December? Has anything come of it? Was any DNA testing done? What happened with that?

And while we're at that, why wasn't the State Attorney's Office informed about the allegations until Wednesday morning?

All that complicates things. It sounds as if a lot of questions have to be answered now, and they should have been answered then. You wonder if the police decided there wasn't enough to charge anyone, so they decided not to pursue the case harder. The case would remain active, but the pursuit of it sounds fairly inactive.

As for Winston? The redshirt freshman quarterback certainly could have declared his innocence in Wednesday's media availability. Oh, I know, I know. His attorney told him to be quiet, and his university said the same. But if you have been falsely accused, could anyone stop you from screaming it out loud?

Besides the alleged crime itself, there is shame in that these allegations will always stick to Winston if they are dropped or if he is found not guilty in court; some will continue to label Winston as if he were guilty.

Look, the world would be a simpler place if all the bad guys in it had their foreheads turn purple. That way, you could just glance and figure it out.

As it is, all we have are hard questions.

In this case, they deserve to be answered.

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