Thursday, November 14, 2013

Witch hunt brewing in Florida? The sexual assault accusation involving a Heisman Trophy candidate

This may become a very big story, and it needs to be monitored carefully. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, a very serious candidate to win the Heisman Trophy, is the subject of a sexual assault investigation in Tallahassee for something that allegedly occurred last December 7 (almost a year ago). Winston denies any wrongdoing. This past February, two months after the alleged claim, Winston's attorney says he was told by the Tallahassee Police Department that its investigation had been closed.

But according to the Miami Herald, State Attorney Willie Meggs said the nearly year old complaint was turned over to the state attorney's office just this past Wednesday -- "after media inquiries were made to the Tallahassee Police Department."

According to the Herald: "Meggs said he did not know why it took 11 months for the local police to ask his agency to get involved in the investigation. 'I don’t have the answer to that,' Meggs said. 'You’ll have to contact the police department.'”

Are we missing something here? A case is apparently dormant for nine months (since February), and it's suddenly turned over to the state attorney's office -- after "media inquiries"? Is the local police department concerned because the media just now found out about the sexual assault accusation? And is it concerned that it will be accused of whitewashing the investigation? Is there a reason for the local police to be concerned about the way it handled its investigation? If so, the state attorney didn't seem to know about any such concern.

One writer raised this possible reason for this sudden turn of events: "Could it be that the 19-year-old athlete is now ranked #2 in country for passing efficiency and is the frontrunner for the Heisman trophy? It seems it was only a matter of time before the media began digging around for dirt on this emerging star."

We can't discount that possibility. We will be watching this one very closely. If the local police department was simply bowing to external pressures having nothing to do with the facts of the case, that would be very disturbing indeed. Given that sexual assault is so terribly politicized, it would not surprise us. Sometimes, allegations of sex crimes that should never see the inside of a courtroom are pushed ahead and brought to trial to appease a public outcry. We remind readers about the recent Jordan Johnson case, where external pressures may have had an influence in the prosecutor's decision to charge a star college quarterback -- and to try to win at all costs. In that case, the evidence was so weak that an alternate juror said this: "The lack of evidence was troubling. The alleged victim's mixed messages and comments to friends cast doubt on allegations. The alleged victim even questioned events of the evening and there was no evidence that Jordan Johnson knew that he had sex without consent." We were concerned about that charge from the outset, and we have serious questions about this case, too.