05 December 2013

Why Jameis Winston was not charged with sexual assault

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will be charged with sexual assault by the Florida state attorney's office after an ongoing investigation regarding a sexual assault complaint filed in December of last year. Here is why Willie Meggs, state attorney for the Second Judicial Court, decided not to charge Winston.

Accuser's memory of the incident
Perhaps the biggest reason as to why the state attorney's office decided not to pursue sexual charges is due to what could be described as lapses in the memory of the accuser. Meggs said "she was not sure about a lot of things" and it appeared that the gaps in her memory could not be filled by witnesses. Fox Sports' Kevin Vaughan obtained the search warrant affidavit which said that she was impaired to the point that she could not tell detectives where the incident took place and that she had what was described as "hazy recollections of details" after her friends she had been with earlier the evening when the incident took place had left. A detective says in the document that "her memory is very broken from that point forward," making it hard for a prosecution to build a case beyond a reasonable doubt. He also added that a prosecution could "count on her to prove elements of a crime."

A potential reason Meggs indirectly pointed to as to why her memory of the incident was impaired was a blood-alcohol test taken hours after the alleged incident that said that at the time of the incident, her blood-alcohol level could have been at 0.10 percent. When she had taken the test, it registered a .04 percentage. When you factor in the alcohol level she apparently was at, she said in the affidavit that she had "five to six shots" and "began to feel the effects of the drinks" before she was taken to the apartment she said the incident occurred, it hurts her case and thus a prosecutor's case.

The presence of another man's DNA
ESPN reported a couple of weeks ago that a DNA analysis of the shorts of the accuser had DNA that matched a sample provided by Winston. Winston's lawyer said that this was not unexpected and that their encounter was consensual. But what complicated the case was that there was a second piece of DNA found in the sexual assault kit. Meggs said that that person was identified as the accuser's boyfriend, who was not associated with the complaint. However, the accuser apparently refused to give the boyfriend's name and he then refused to cooperate and answer questions on what happened that night. The presence of that second piece of DNA also clouds an accusation of sexual assault against Winston if another man had had sex with the accuser during the same night, and if the accuser was unable to fully put together the incident.

The lengthy time between the investigation and the incident
The incident was alleged to take place on December 7, 2012. The investigation did not take place until now. That is a major problem and leads to many question over the Tallahassee police's handling of this accusation. They have defended their handling of the case, which included them putting the case in "open/inactive" status in February, which they say they did due to the accuser not wanting to press charges, which the accuser's lawyer strong denied.

Meggs did says the the delay in the case reaching his office played a role in why he decided not to press charges. "Obviously it would have been somewhat better if we had all gotten into this case a little bit earlier," Meggs said. "Time is important, and it certainly would have been nice" had his office gotten all of this information a year ago.

All in all, it's hard for me to say that Winston was fully exonerated, and we may never know what truly happened, but Meggs made a good point in saying that he has a duty as a prosecutor "to determine if each case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction" but that his office did not feel that they "can reach those burdens."

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