Sunday, May 20, 2018
Colleges

Attorney: Sexual assault investigation connected to Jameis Winston 'a complete failure'

ZEPHYRHILLS — The attorney for Jameis Winston's accuser renewed her criticism of the Tallahassee Police Department on Friday, calling for the Attorney General's Office to investigate the police and their handling of a sexual assault case connected to Florida State's star quarterback.

"It appears to me to be a complete failure of an investigation of a rape case," Dade City-based attorney Patricia Carroll said during a 90-minute news conference at Zephyr Park.

"Do I believe that complete failure of an investigation of a rape case was related to the fact that this gentleman was on the football team? I do."

Much of her criticism centered on toxicology results that she said contradicted the woman's behavior.

Carroll said the accuser, a 19-year-old Pasco County resident, showed symptoms — nausea, headaches, spotty memory — during the Dec. 7, 2012, encounter that were consistent with date-rape drugs. Police documents also say the woman was given a shot of alcohol by an unknown person at Potbelly's, a Tallahassee bar.

After her samples were checked and independently retested for 172 different drugs but showed no traces of anything, Carroll questioned whether police tampered with the evidence.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement calls for investigators to give blood and urine samples to crime labs "as soon as possible." FDLE didn't receive the samples until Jan. 17 — more than a month after they were taken — according to police documents.

"Which makes one wonder what the holdup was," Carroll said. "Which makes me concerned as to the validity of that evidence."

That evidence was among the points considered by the State Attorney's Office, which ended a 13-day investigation last week by announcing that it would not press charges against Winston, who has denied any wrongdoing.

On Friday, Carroll expressed concern with that investigation, too, and wondered if "the politics of football" factored into it.

Carroll asked why State Attorney Willie Meggs' office didn't search the phone records of Winston or a witness, FSU defensive end Chris Casher, and whether he adequately explored the chain of toxicology evidence.

"He should have done a lot more," Carroll said.

In a phone interview Friday afternoon, Meggs disputed Carroll's points.

Meggs said investigators focused on the woman's phone records to find out whether someone sent her a text message asking her to meet her outside, as one witness told investigators. Meggs said his office confirmed through DNA tests that the blood tested belonged to the accuser. Although it's impossible to link a person's DNA with a urine sample, Meggs said the urine and blood samples were sent in the same sealed package.

"I have never, one time, in my wildest dreams thought that someone would substitute someone's blood or urine in a rape case for no particular reason," Meggs said.

Carroll also criticized several other aspects of the Tallahassee police's investigation: failing to identify and interview witnesses immediately; releasing medical documents to media with some details redacted; refusing to get warrants to search Winston's apartment or collect his DNA; focusing too much on the accuser and not the suspect; and deactivating the case without telling her.

Statements previously released by the family through Carroll said they were available for police interviews "at all times," but Carroll said Friday they stopped calling police in April because of "fear and concern for what we were encountering."

"It was very obvious as this progressed that we didn't feel we were going to get a proper investigation, and we didn't feel we were going to get justice," Carroll said.

Tallahassee Police Department spokesman David Northway said his department didn't release some medical details because of privacy laws but otherwise declined to respond to Carroll's concerns.

"The case has been closed by the State Attorney's Office," Northway said, "and we continue to support Mr. Meggs in his endeavors."

Neither the accuser nor her family were present, and Carroll said the woman is "doing as well as she can." The Tampa Bay Times generally does not name victims or possible victims of sexual assaults.

Where the year-old case goes from here is unclear. Carroll said the woman's family isn't considering a lawsuit, but she hopes Attorney General Pam Bondi conducts an independent investigation to see if the Tallahassee Police Department has a "systemic problem" with rape cases.

"Attorney General Bondi has spoken with FDLE Commissioner (Gerald) Bailey regarding a possible formal request from the attorney alleging criminal allegations against TPD," Bondi's spokeswoman, Jenn Meale, said in an email. "No formal request has yet been received."

Any inquiry into Meggs would have to go through the governor's office, and spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said Gov. Rick Scott has no plans to pursue one.

"The State Attorney's Office and FDLE did a thorough investigation of this case," Schutz said, "and they concluded that no further action on this matter is required."

Times staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this report. Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]

     
 
Comments
ACC football announces early kickoff times, TV info for FSU, Miami games

ACC football announces early kickoff times, TV info for FSU, Miami games

The ACC has released some kickoff and TV information for the first three weeks of the season:Week 1 (previously announced)Miami vs. LSU (in Arlington, Texas): Sunday, Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m., ABCVirginia Tech at Florida State: Monday, Sept. 3, 8 p.m., ESP...
Published: 05/18/18
Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Old, unofficial news is expected to become old, official news today with a formal announcement that Florida State and Boise State are kicking off the 2019 season in Jacksonville.  A lot has changed since the schools announced the series (FSU pla...
Published: 05/16/18
FSU-Boise State to open 2019 season in Jacksonville

FSU-Boise State to open 2019 season in Jacksonville

What had been an open secret for months is now open and shut: Group of Five power Boise State will face FSU at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville in the teams' 2019 opener.A formal announcement is expected Wednesday, but the '19 schedule on Boise's offi...
Published: 05/15/18
RHP Mark Moclair’s versatility proves valuable to University of Tampa

RHP Mark Moclair’s versatility proves valuable to University of Tampa

TAMPA — He’s the accidental pitcher who can’t be pigeonholed into a defined role. He’s a well-spoken economics major who morphs into fire-breathing intensity on the mound. And he’s one of the biggest reasons why the University of Tampa Spartans are p...
Published: 05/15/18
Police: Florida Gators recruit Justin Watkins kicked female’s car, broke her phone

Police: Florida Gators recruit Justin Watkins kicked female’s car, broke her phone

One of the Florida Gators' top incoming recruits was released from jail early Wednesday after police allege he kicked a female's car and broke her phone after an argument.Justin Watkins — a four-star athlete from Clermont — and ...
Published: 05/10/18
Why Gators’ Dan Mullen still name-drops his second grade teacher

Why Gators’ Dan Mullen still name-drops his second grade teacher

When first-year Gators coach Dan Mullen spoke to a packed crowd at the Tampa Yacht and Country Club this winter, he told stories about the stars Florida fans recognize instantly.Tim Tebow. Steve Spurrier. Percy Harvin.Then he name-dropped someone els...
Published: 05/10/18
Florida Gators coordinator Todd Grantham to earn $1.39 million. Here are the other salaries

Florida Gators coordinator Todd Grantham to earn $1.39 million. Here are the other salaries

New Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will be one of the highest paid assistants in the country, earning $1.39 million in base pay this year.The Gators released the contracts for Grantham and the rest of Dan Mullen's staff on Tuesday aftern...
Published: 05/08/18
Why Dan Mullen wants his Gators to hit every school in Florida

Why Dan Mullen wants his Gators to hit every school in Florida

As the Florida Gators hit the road for the spring evaluation period, coach Dan Mullen has a goal."It's really important for me that we try to get into every school in the state of Florida," Mullen said Monday before a speech to the Polk County Gator ...
Published: 05/08/18
Dan Mullen: Florida Gators not pursuing grad transfer quarterback ‘right now’

Dan Mullen: Florida Gators not pursuing grad transfer quarterback ‘right now’

LAKELAND – Despite some rumblings tying the Gators to Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow, Florida has no plans "right now" to pursue a graduate transfer at the position, first-year coach Dan Mullen said Monday evening."We're not really looking a...
Published: 05/07/18
Where do Bobby Bowden, Mike Martin rank among top coaching duos?

Where do Bobby Bowden, Mike Martin rank among top coaching duos?

Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin became the winningest coach in NCAA history over the weekend with an extra-innings victory over Clemson. His record: 1,976-708-4.Martin joins football legend Bobby Bowden as one of the Seminoles' top coaches e...
Published: 05/07/18