By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Michael Pearson
Fans of the No.1-ranked Florida State University Seminoles can breathe a collective sigh of relief after a prosecutor said Thursday that quarterback Jameis Winston will not be charged in a rape investigation.
A key factor was the accuser's recollection of the events during the December 2012 incident, in which she accused Winston of raping her after she had been drinking with friends at a Tallahassee bar, said Willie Meggs, the state attorney for the 2nd Judicial Circuit, which includes Leon County and Tallahassee.
"We have a duty as prosecutors to only file ... charges if we have a reasonable likelihood of a conviction," he said. "We did not feel we could meet that burden."
He further said investigators did not have even probable cause to arrest Winston, which requires a low standard of proof.
The accuser's family and others claim authorities allowed football interests to dictate the pace and depth of the investigation. Winston is a Heisman Trophy hopeful set to play for a conference championship this weekend and possibly a national championship thereafter.
Meggs, who attended high school in Tallahassee and has a bachelor's and law degree from FSU, brushed off the insinuation.
"We worked as fast as we could with the time constraints that we have," he said.
While the Tallahassee Police Department's investigation, which the accuser's family has publicly criticized, "could have been handled better," Meggs said, there was nothing that would necessitate an investigation of the department.
Asked specifically about the delay in collecting Winston's DNA, Meggs called it "immaterial" because Winston's DNA matched the DNA on the accuser's underwear. It wasn't a matter of whether Winston and the accuser had sex, Meggs said; it was a matter of whether it was a "forceful act."
Another DNA sample was found on the accuser's shorts, Meggs said, but he wouldn't say who it belonged to.
He did, however, say the accuser "acknowledged having sex with her boyfriend, but she wouldn't tell me who her boyfriend was." Investigators were able to determine his identity later, he said.
Several people were in the room on the night of the incident, Meggs said, and all were interviewed. The accuser's blood-alcohol level when taken was 0.04%, which Meggs 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.
The prosecutor's findings, which Meggs said would be available to the media in a report within 24 hours, will demonstrate there was no indication Winston sexually assaulted the woman, the prosecutor said.
"When you see the report, you'll see all the answers," Meggs told reporters.
According to police documents, the woman told investigators she had been drinking with friends at a bar called Potbelly's. They later left her after consuming several shots, according to the documents.
She said she did not remember much of what happened next but told investigators she remembered winding up in a ground-floor apartment where a man took off her clothes and had sex with her despite her objections.
The woman came forward a month later to accuse Winston, but Tallahassee's interim Police Chief Tom Coe said last week that she "broke off contact" with investigators in February and said she didn't want to go forward with the case.
The woman's family has said that a detective had warned her attorney that Tallahassee is a "big football town" and that her life could be miserable if she pursued the case.
The case resurfaced after media outlets made public records requests for the initial complaint.
Last month, Winston's attorney announced his client and the woman had consensual sex. The woman's family shot back saying, "To be clear, the victim did not consent. This was rape."
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