Winston case beckons more aggressive investigation

By Adam Mathieu, COLUMNIST
On April 7, 2014

 

Jameis Winston, the star Florida State University quarterback who led his team to Bowl Championship Series victory and scored himself a Heisman Trophy, is yet again having the spotlight shown on the darker side of what he is known for.

In December 2012, a student came forward to Tallahassee State Police and FSU reporting that Winston raped her. Yet, the case sat dormant for almost a year as Winston played for the No. 1 ranking Florida State team.

It is alarming that local police and the university did not initially respond with a serious investigation to help the woman who claimed she was raped. Unless this is how all rape cases on campus are handled, then perhaps it could be Winston’s role on the field that has kept him out of the university’s investigation for over a year.

Winston’s teammates Chris Casher and Ronald Darby received five of the school’s code of conduct violations, allegedly creating a hostile sexual situation for Winston and his accuser, with Casher trying to join the sexual act and recording it on his phone.

Winston, on the other hand, is not being held as accountable for his actions as his teammates. He has not had as much action taken against him by FSU
administrators, has remained quiet about his actions and has yet to see any violations of the school’s code
of conduct.

Both teammates told investigators they saw the quarterback having sex with his accuser, which should have been enough for the school to further investigate his actions — even if what the witnesses saw does not confirm nonconsensual sex.

In January, immediately following FSU’s undefeated season, the university finally began conducting a Title IX investigation, which deals with sexual discrimination and advances. However, Winston chose to remain silent
when questioned.

The delayed investigation could be interpreted as the school not wanting to press the issue to keep Winston out of trouble.

Additionally, Winston’s refusal to speak on what happened that night is the only thing maintaining his innocence. It seems at this point the only evidence against Winston is the accuser’s story, but that has not been enough to build a case.

Another obstacle for the case is that the accuser has gaps in her recollection from the night, which is not uncommon in cases of sexual assault. It is confirmed that Winston and his accuser had sex that night, but proving it was nonconsensual can only be based on her account of the night — which, unfortunately, is not enough to have a strong case.

The investigation will get another look as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is exploring whether or not FSU responded promptly or appropriately to the case, per a request by the accuser and her attorneys.

Given that FSU took over a year to question Winston, it is clear there was no promptness in the case.

Obviously there is no way for anyone not present to know for sure if Winston committed a crime. However, the OCR should bring to light why this case was delayed for such a long period of time and how the school regularly handles sexual assault cases.

Clearly Winston and the woman accusing him are both seeing a poorly conducted investigation by local police and the university. While FSU should receive criticism for its handling of a sexual assault claim, it would be truly disappointing if news surfaces that any effort was made to keep Winston on the field and out of a courtroom.

 

Adam Mathieu is a sophomore majoring in studio art.

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