Florida State's Jameis Winston is a redshirt freshman quarterback who led his team to the BCS National Championship this year. He has also been accused of rape. A New York Times investigation published today shows that FSU and the police conducted "virtually no investigation" into an incident that occurred in December 2012, long before Winston won the Heisman Trophy.
If this sounds to you like a star athlete getting special treatment by the authorities and his university, it is. Winston's accuser reported being raped by a student she didn't know on December 7, 2012. She was confused, bruised, and had blacked out during the incident — in the 911 call, her friend said she thought she got hit in the back of the head. Police collected DNA found in the the accuser's underwear, and then did nothing for almost two months. The timeline Walt Bogdanich at the Times reports (at right) is alarming — once the accuser identified Winston as her rapist, police didn't interview him for two weeks. Within a year, prosecutor William Meggs closed the case because there was not enough evidence. According to the Times, that's because the police department made little effort to collect any.
When reports of the alleged rape hit the news in December 2013, Winston was nearly done with his record-breaking season. FSU officials didn't question him about the incident until January 2014 — after the season was over and the investigation was closed. Winston's lawyer maintains that Winston is innocent, and that he had consensual sex with his accuser. Winston faces no punishment from FSU.
The Times identified other flawed rape investigations at FSU to make the case that Winston's non-trial is evidence of a systemic problem. Sadly, flawed rape investigations happen at universities all over the country. President Obama has created a task force to deal with this issue specifically, and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill have called for additional funding to help schools investigate sexual assaults.
Julie DiCaro, a public defender who was raped while she was in college, was not surprised by the outcome of the FSU investigation. Writing for Deadspin in December 2013, she explained,
It's believed that around 60 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. I have no regrets that I kept my rape a secret, though I'd handle things differently now. I'm older, wiser, and stronger. But the way rape victims are treated by the system, sadly, hasn't grown up as much as I have.
Meanwhile, the Bleacher Report is already excited about FSU's prospects come fall. The site is predicting a "monster sophomore season" for Winston:
What does he have in store for his encore?
Expect to see Winston even more involved in the offense this season. The Seminoles lost running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. to the NFL draft. Winston will have to make up for these losses by putting up even bigger numbers than he did in 2013.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.