Thursday, December 5, 2013

Today's announcement in the Winston case illustrates the folly of those who ponder whether athletes should be "punished" on the basis of nothing more than a rape accusation

Emily Bazelon, a self-proclaimed feminist, recently wrote about the Jameis Winston case: "Whether schools should punish athletes who have been accused but not convicted—or in Winston’s case, even charged—is a hard call."

Of course it is not a hard call, at least it's not for anyone who believes in due process, the rule of law, and fair play. Today's announcement by the state attorney underscores why Bazelon's statement was both bizarre and wholly unjust.

Prosecutors, the state attorney said, did not even have enough evidence (probable cause) to arrest Winston, much less charge or convict him.

The usual suspects who are happy to rush to judgment in these sorts of politicized cases bellyached about the delay in collecting Winston's DNA. The state attorney dismissed those concerns. Winston's DNA was "immaterial" -- Winston and the accuser had sex, there is no dispute about that. The DNA would only corroborate a fact that is not in dispute. The question was whether it was a "forceful act," and the DNA can't help answer that.

By the way, another DNA sample from a different man was found on the accuser's shorts. The state attorney revealed that the accuser "acknowledged having sex with her boyfriend, but she wouldn't tell me who her boyfriend was."

Several people were in the room on the night of the incident, the state attorney said, and all were interviewed. The accuser's blood-alcohol level when taken was 0.04%, which the state attorney said was "not very high." He further said investigators extrapolated the data to determine that her BAC was about 0.1%, slightly over the legal limit to drive, at the time of the incident. "We found no evidence of any drugs of any sort in her blood system." he said.

There was, in short, no indication Winston sexually assaulted the woman.

We've read a lot of accounts of today's press conference. A number of them call the accuser "the victim" despite the absence of any legitimate basis for doing so.

We fear that there are lots of ideologues who think that Winston should have been "punished" on the basis of an accusation. Today's announcement will not change that. That sort of thinking should be a concern to all persons of good will. Angry gender politics has no place in dealing with serious accusations of criminality.

Finally, we note that this is another in a long string of high profile rape cases where an accusation was blown out of proportion, and the case ended with no charges being filed because the evidence didn't support them. The ideologues who blow these cases out of proportion do not favors to rape victims -- these sorts of high profile resolutions only increase public skepticism about date rape accusations. It's best to let the police do their job quietly without turning every rape allegation against a celebrity into a gender passion play.