Late last night ESPN reported that Jameis Winston’s DNA matched the samples taken from the woman who has alleged he raped her. In conjunction with a detailed statement from the woman’s attorney — which I’d encourage you to read here — we can now feel relatively confident that we know her side of the story. Winston, aside from a reported two affidavits filed by “witnesses” on his behalf, has not told his side of the story. Although at a press conference this morning Winston’s attorney continued to maintain that Winston is innocent of any crime.
So what now?
Let’s dive in and look at what we know.
1. On the early morning of Dec. 7, Jameis Winston and the alleged victim in this case had some sort of sexual encounter.
The DNA evidence on her clothing connects to Jameis Winston to a specific degree. How specific? According to ESPN’s report there’s a 1 in 2.2 trillion chance it isn’t his DNA. (There are only seven billion people on earth).
So what happened during this sexual encounter?
She claims he raped her and Winston hasn’t told his side of the story yet, having declined to speak with authorities. Based on the DNA connection, Winston’s only defense now is that the sex was consensual.
So now we have a he said, she said dispute over a sexual encounter.
So who do we believe?
And who makes the decision about who to believe? Read on.
2. We know the woman immediately contacted authorities that night and reported she was raped.
We also know the Tallahassee police conducted an investigation and took evidence from the woman that night. What was this evidence? Was she bruised or injured from the sexual encounter? What evidence, if any, is there to suggest that this sexual encounter was not consensual? That will matter a great deal here.
We do know that despite acknowledging that she’d had “a shot,” at a bar that night, based on blood work the woman was not drunk.
We also know that sometime in January the woman identified Jameis Winston as the man who raped her. After that identification, according to the woman’s statement, the local police department told her that she should think twice about pursuing the case because she’d be raked over the coals in a “big football town.”
For reasons that remain unclear the local police also refused to conduct any DNA test of Winston for over ten months after he was identified as the rape suspect.
3. Could the woman be lying about an alleged rape?
People lie all the time about all variety of circumstances.
But does a woman voluntarily submit to a rape test kit within two hours of having sex while claiming not to know her assailant just for show? That just doesn’t make sense. Particularly since Winston wasn’t even playing for FSU at the time of the alleged assault. If she was trying to get Winston in trouble or upset with him and wanted to tell a lie, wouldn’t she have immediately used his actual name?
What’s more, if a woman makes a false claim of sexual assault, she, like anyone else who files a false complaint about any crime, is subject to legal prosecution.
It seems clear here that the woman believes she was raped.
4. Winston has declined to speak with authorities.
His attorney has, however, filed two affidavits from witnesses in this case. We do not know what these statements say or who these witnesses are. Are they friends or teammates of Winston’s? Relatively independent witnesses with limited connection to either party? The identity of these witnesses and their relationships with either party, if any, goes a long way towards assessing how valuable their testimony will be.
In the meantime, Winston’s attorney, as every defense attorney has since the dawn of criminal law, maintains his client is innocent.
5. The state’s attorney continues to investigate the case.
He alone will make the decision about whether or not to charge Winston with any crime. (He’s said publicly that he will not take the case to a grand jury).
Given that the state’s attorney has heard from the alleged victim and still has not heard from Winston, he’s receiving just one full side of the story. So assuming Winston doesn’t cooperate by telling his side of the story — given that he’s refused to do so thus far it seems unlikely he’d start now — the state’s attorney has a really difficult decision to make without all of the information in hand.
6. Especially since this story has now moved well beyond a sports story and has been picked up by non-sports media.
We’re close to a media firestorm here.
There are allegations of a police cover-up alongside further allegations of a high-profile sports star and program playing by their own set of rules amidst a BCS title and Heisman Trophy run. Toss in the continuing fall out from the Penn State mess and major university athletic programs are not receiving the benefit of the doubt in the court of public opinion.
So there’s actually pressure to file charges now.
Pressure that would not have existed to a degree like this if the investigation had been completed months ago, as it should have been.
7. So what happens now?
Since this news initially broke last Wednesday, quite a bit of detail has been leaked or released about this case.
The woman alleges she was raped by Jameis Winston.
Winston denies having raped her.
So we’re on the spectrum of sexual assault that I wrote about last week. To refresh, from a legal perspective there is quite a lot of gray area between the two ends of the sexual assault spectrum. On one side of that spectrum is 100% mutually consensual sex which is in no way criminal. On the other end of the spectrum is 100% rape.
Based on the two diametrically opposite perspectives here, Winston will argue it was consensual sex, the victim says it’s rape.
So whose story does the state’s attorney believe?
What’s more, is it a close enough call that he feels charges have to be filed to allow a jury to hear these two stories and decide who they believe? Or does he find the woman’s story unbelievable and clear Winston without filing charges? Those are his only two options at this point.
8. What about the sports angle?
Clearly, the sports angle is secondary to the crime, but the reason that anyone cares about this story is because of the sports angle.
So let’s discuss that as well.
If he’s charged with a felony, Winston would be ineligible to compete with FSU’s football team absent a determination of “extraordinary circumstances,” by FSU’s administration. It’s unlikely that an institute of higher learning will find those circumstances present in this case.
Can you imagine the outrage if Winston played in the ACC title game and the BCS title game with felony sex charges having been filed against him by another student?
If FSU doesn’t have Winston’s services then the team is 9 or 10 points worse according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.
That’s a huge change in team strength, the difference between a top two team and a borderline top 25 team.
Given that voters decide both the Heisman trophy and the BCS title game, there’s a decent chance that voters will have to weigh Winston’s situation in deciding how to rank both his individual performance and the team’s.
In the offseason Winston said he hoped he didn’t get “Manziel disesase,” a reference to Johnny’s off-field antics which were aggressively chronicled by the sports media.
If only getting Manziel disease was all Winston had to worry about right now.
In the meantime, a prosecutor’s decision matters more in the college football universe than any of us ever hoped it would.