Thursday, July 19, 2018
Colleges

Statement: Police warned accuser about pursuing Jameis Winston matter

A Tallahassee detective told an accuser's attorney that her client's life "will be made miserable" if she pursued a sexual assault case against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the woman's family said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday.

The statement — released through the family's attorney, Patricia Carroll — includes the first public comments from the complainant and her family since allegations surfaced last week that the Heisman Trophy front-runner was involved in an investigation of a reported sexual assault in December 2012.

Winston, 19, has not been arrested or charged with a crime, and his attorney has denied any wrongdoing by his client. State Attorney Willie Meggs said the case could be resolved within the next week.

Late Wednesday, however, ESPN reported that DNA analysis completed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Tuesday confirmed that DNA provided by Winston matched the sample taken from the woman's underwear.

ESPN reported that police obtained a sexual assault kit on Dec. 7, 2012, when the accuser reported the alleged assault. Winston's DNA was recently obtained through a swab he provided to authorities investigating the case.

Meggs and Winston's attorney, Tim Jansen, could not be reached by ESPN for comment on the DNA analysis.

The family's statement said the woman is from the Tampa Bay area and attended FSU. The Times generally does not name anyone who might be a victim of a sexual assault.

A woman said she was sexually assaulted between 1:30 and 2 a.m., according to a heavily redacted Tallahassee police report released last week, and police responded to a call about two hours later.

Although the report listed the suspect at between 5 feet 9 and 5 feet 11 — about 5 inches shorter than Winston — the family's statement said the woman identified Winston as the suspect in early January.

Soon after, "the family grew concerned that she would be targeted on campus" and requested assistance from an attorney friend, according to the statement.

Although Winston did not play during the 2012 season because he was redshirting to extend his eligibility, he came to FSU as the nation's No. 1 high school quarterback. The five-star prospect from Hueytown, Ala., was expected to contend for the starting quarterback position as a redshirt freshman.

"When the attorney contacted Detective (Scott) Angulo immediately after Winston was identified, Detective Angulo told the attorney that Tallahassee was a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable," the family said.

The family also said Angulo refused to collect Winston's DNA or interview his roommate, a possible witness, because doing so would alert Winston and could force the case to go public.

At an evening news conference at the Tallahassee City Hall, reporters peppered Police Department spokesman David Northway with questions:

What does the department have to say about the allegation that the detective cautioned the accuser about pursuing the case? Has that detective been questioned? What was the department doing to instill confidence in how it is handling the case?

Northway said he was not at liberty to discuss any of it.

"I understand the concerns that are out there," he said. "But at the same time, we must respect the rights of those that are involved. There are people that are involved in this case. This case is not about something that's out there in the space. These are people's lives that we are talking about and we must protect those rights."

The family also questioned why Winston's attorney was told the case had been closed in February without Tallahassee police interviewing Winston or collecting his DNA, while their attorney waited four months to receive her client's blood work.

A public records request by the Times revealed no search warrants executed under Winston's name. There are no public search warrants related to sex crimes that match the address of the building where Winston reportedly lives.

In addition, the public records request did not reveal that any search warrants have been executed in relation to the case since Nov. 11. There is no way to know if there are search warrants that have been carried out but are confidential at this time.

"The victim was devastated when she learned late last week that the Tallahassee Police Department had informed Winston's attorney as far back as February, which allowed him all of this time to create his defense and prepare his witnesses," the family said. "The victim cannot fathom that the State Attorney's Office was not given the same opportunity."

Jansen did not return a phone message Wednesday afternoon.

Although emails obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat on Tuesday said the case stalled after the family stopped cooperating with police, the family said in the statement the accuser and her attorney were available to investigators "at all times."

At the City Hall news conference, interim Tallahassee police Chief Tom Coe asserted that the case went inactive at the request of the victim.

"In February of 2013, the case was classified as open but inactive when the victim in the case broke off contact with TPD and her attorney indicated she did not want to move forward at that time," Coe said.

He said the Police Department decided to consult with the State Attorney's Office after media started asking about the case, which was never closed. As a result, the case was reactivated.

He said that although some public statements have been incorrect and his department understands the case's national attention, he will not comment on specifics.

"Having a fair process that truly protects the rights of all involved is our most important priority in this point in time," Coe said.

In their statement, the family raised several other questions about the case, including:

• "Why was Winston not listed as the suspect in the police report when he was identified in early January?"

• "Why didn't Detective Angulo or his superiors inform the state attorney of the crime before the media sought a copy of the police report 11 months after the crime?"

In a phone interview Wednesday, Meggs, the state attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit, called it "amazing" that Jansen and the media have received copies of the police report or anything else in an open investigation. He said he hopes the Police Department examines whether its procedures were followed when this investigation closes.

The story became public last week during the height of Winston's Heisman campaign as the nation's top college football player and the Seminoles' push for their first national championship since 1999.

The family said that they did not leak the initial reports and responded publicly Wednesday because of recent media reports.

Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]. Tia Mitchell can be reached at [email protected]

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