When Florida state attorney William Meggs announced last week that the state would not file sexual assault charges against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston over an incident that occurred near the FSU campus, the press conference was marked by its jocular tone. Laughter about Winston’s Heisman Trophy candidacy. Laughter about the accuser’s relationship to with another man. Laughter about, it seemed, every aspect of the case.
Friday, it was the accuser’s attorney who held a press conference, and this time there was no laughter to be found. Instead, attorney Patricia Carroll detailed what she called the many failures of the Tallahassee Police Department’s original investigation into the sexual assault claims made against Winston and the subsequent shortcomings of Meggs’ follow-up investigation into the case.
“This was a complete failure of an investigation of a rape case,” Carroll said, and while she wouldn’t attribute that failure to Winston’s newfound status as a Heisman Trophy favorite, she said football played a factor. “Do I think that complete failure occurred because he was on the football team? I do, yes.”
Though Carroll said that detailing the investigative failures “point-by-point” would require “all day,” she outlined numerous problems she saw in the investigation headed by TPD detective Scott Angulo, who allegedly told Carroll in January that “the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against (Winston),” lest she be “be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.”
Chief among Carroll’s claims of impropriety were that the TPD failed to test the victim’s blood for date-rape drugs, that medical records from the night of the incident were altered and parts were redacted, and Angulo and the TPD failed to record many of their conversations with the accuser, witnesses, or Winston’s attorneys in police reports until after the case was closed.
Carroll pointed to the victim’s lack of recollection of specific events of the night as evidence that she was possibly drugged, but while toxicology reports were conducted for alcohol and other drugs, no tests were done to detect date-rape drugs. Meanwhile, she said, Angulo failed to record multiple interviews with the accuser in a police report until February 7, when he attempted to piece together all of his interviews into a single police report that, as a result, Carroll said, was filled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies (for example, she said, the same report says the accuser identified the suspect as being 6-foot-2 in height, then records the suspect’s height at 5-foot-9 to 5-foot-11).
In addition, Angulo failed to execute a warrant to conduct a DNA test on Winston after the accuser had identified him as her attacker in January 2013, even as his apartment matched the accuser’s description and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory had identified foreign DNA on the accuser’s underwear. At multiple points through August 2013, Carroll said, Angulo and the TPD failed to record the fact that the FDLE had requested such DNA samples to conduct proper tests. Instead, Carroll said, Angulo filed warrants for the accuser’s phone records.
“He did not conduct an investigation, ladies and gentleman,” Caroll said bluntly during the press conference. “No investigation was conducted into the suspect in this case.”
The details against Angulo and the Tallahassee Police Department align closely with those in the victim’s account released in November. Meggs too was critical of the TPD investigation when he announced that there would be no charges, saying that “it would have been somewhat easier” to investigate the case had he known about it sooner. But Carroll aimed criticism at Meggs and the State Attorney’s Office too.
Meggs and the SAO, Carroll said, focused more on the victim’s relationship with another man than they did on Winston after separate DNA was found on her underwear. That DNA came from a previous consensual sexual relationship, but Meggs said at his press conference that it would have complicated the case were he to file rape charges. Carroll noted that previous sexual encounters were not admissible in court during rape cases under Florida law. The SAO investigation spent more time searching for the man involved in the consensual relationship than they did investigating Winston, Carroll said.
“This,” Carroll said, “was an investigation into rape victim, not a rape suspect.”
Carroll also accused Meggs of relying too heavily on the testimony of two supposed eyewitnesses who had offered their own contradictory and varying accounts of what happened the night of the incident. One of the witnesses was Florida State football player Chris Casher, who had met the accuser at the bar that night and later walked in during the sexual activity, in part to record it on his phone, which Carroll said could be a crime under Florida’s video voyeurism laws. The TPD failed to look for Casher, who had been identified only as “a football player named Chris” to that point, and by the time he was identified and contacted, the recording had been deleted and the phone was no longer in his possession. That both witnesses are teammates of Winston’s on the Florida State football team also clouded their credibility, she said. “There is no way it was proper, in my opinion, for the state to rely on these two witnesses,” Carroll said. “They are completely biased witnesses.”
Her final bit of criticism for Meggs and the SAO was that it mostly reviewed the TPD investigation instead of adding to it, even if time presented a challenge. “I believe he didn’t do enough to make that determination,” she said of Meggs’ decision not to file charges. “The issue is what was not done.”
Law enforcement experts also criticized the TPD’s handling of the case to the Tampa Bay Times Friday, with one calling it a “real failure.”
Though there were no criminal charges filed against Winston, the accuser could still bring civil charges against him or the Tallahassee Police Department, and it seemed that Carroll’s detailed criticism of the investigation was setting up such an outcome. During the press conference, however, she called pursuance of a civil complaint “premature,” and instead called on Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate both the case itself and the TPD’s handling of it.
Winston won the Walter Camp player of the year award Thursday and will travel Saturday to New York City, where he is expected to win the Heisman Trophy, college football’s most prestigious award. Then, on January 6, nearly a year to the day after the accuser first identified him as her attacker, Winston will take the field in the BCS National Championship Game and attempt to lead the Seminoles to their first national title since 1999.
Asked how the victim was holding up through all of this, Carroll said she quit her sorority at the school and is trying to complete her finals with the help of special accommodations from FSU. “Her life’s been turned upside down,” Carroll said. And how did she react while watching Meggs and Co. laugh their way through the press conference announcing that Winston wouldn’t face charges?
The attorney paused.