Kellen Winslow II trial: Guilty of rape, indecent exposure, lewd conduct

Kellen Winslow II listens in court as a verdict is read. (CourtTV)
Kellen Winslow II listens in court as a verdict is read. (CourtTV)

VISTA, Calif. — A conflicted jury in San Diego County found former NFL star Kellen Winslow II guilty of raping a 58-year-old homeless woman in 2018, but remained deadlocked on six additional felonies.

The jury also found him guilty Monday of indecent exposure involving an incident with a 58-year-old woman who was gardening in her front yard. That is a misdemeanor.

Winslow was also found guilty on a lewd conduct misdemeanor involving an incident with a 78-year-old woman in a health club in March 2019. He was found not guilty on another lewd conduct charge involving that same woman.

Winslow, 35, is now a convicted rapist and is still awaiting additional verdicts. He was charged on 12 counts, including seven felonies. The jurors said they were deadlocked on the remaining charges.

“For now, yes,” the jury foreman told Judge Blaine K. Bowman.

The jury returned to deliberate, but about an hour after the verdicts were read, Bowman received a fifth note: “We remain deadlocked on all remaining charges."

At that point, the defense vehemently urged the judge to declare a mistrial on the remaining charges. Bowman refused to do so Monday, requiring the jury to return Tuesday morning.

Winslow, wearing a dark suit and a yellow tie, looked surprised at the verdicts. He sipped water and tried to read some notes during the reading. He later shook his head to his attorneys and his family, including his father, Kellen Winslow, a Hall of Fame player for the San Diego Chargers.

The guilty verdicts pertain to charges by Jane Doe 2 (rape), Jane Doe 3 (indecent exposure) and Jane Doe 5 (lewd conduct).

Winslow faces 3-8 years in prison on the rape conviction, though he could face a larger sentence if the jury comes back with a second rape conviction. He also faces six months on the misdemeanor charges. The judge will decide the term at a sentencing hearing. The charge also requires registration as a sex offender.

Incredible fall for Winslow II

How Winslow’s life unraveled to this extent is a tale as confounding as it is disturbing. This is a man who seemingly had everything, a revered family name, a promising football career, an extravagant salary and a storybook marriage to his high school sweetheart.

Winslow is the son of Kellen Winslow Sr., an NFL Hall of Fame tight end who remains a beloved figure in the San Diego area. In the 1980s, the elder Winslow established the mold for today’s elite tight ends with his downfield pass-catching prowess as a centerpiece of innovative Chargers coach Don Coryell’s aerial attack.

Strong bloodlines no doubt helped fuel the younger Winslow’s rise from highly touted San Diego-area high school prospect, to All-American at the University of Miami, to sixth overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft. Injuries from a 2005 motorcycle crash nearly forced him to quit football, but he recovered to earn more than $40 million in salary during a 10-year NFL career highlighted by four seasons with 75 or more catches and a 2007 invitation to the Pro Bowl.

Whereas Kellen Sr. was known for his trademark humility during his football career, the younger Winslow often made headlines with his volatility and bravado.

At Miami, he nicknamed himself “The Chosen One” because he believed he possessed athletic gifts no other player could match. He also unapologetically described himself as a “f----- soldier” when reporters dared question him for standing over and taunting a shaken University of Tennessee player after delivering a hard-hitting block.

"It's war," Winslow II said then. "They're out there to kill you, so I'm out there to kill them.”

The stature of the Winslow family and the graphic nature of the case ensured that his rape trial would attract as much media coverage as a big-time sporting event. Court TV aired the entire three-week trial from gavel to gavel and reporters from San Diego-area and national outlets were a daily courtroom presence.

The trial centered on the accusations of five women who didn’t know one another and had no apparent connections besides their encounters with Winslow.

Prosecutor Dan Owens attempted to prove Winslow was a predator who targeted vulnerable women, took from them for his sexual pleasure and then discarded them “like a piece of trash because that’s what he thought they were.” Winslow’s high-priced defense attorneys countered by seizing on the holes and inconsistencies in the alleged victims’ stories in hopes of showing that their client was a victim of wrongful accusations or mistaken identity.

Jury Note No. 5
Jury Note No. 5

Jane Doe 2: Winslow raped her on dark road (guilty)

Jane Doe No. 2 is a homeless woman who Winslow allegedly sporadically offered food or cash or rides to a nearby shelter whenever he spotted her on the streets of downtown Encinitas.

At around 8 p.m. on Mother’s Day 2018, Doe said she got into the passenger seat of Winslow’s Hummer after he agreed to take her to get coffee. She alleged Winslow instead violently raped her by the side of a dimly lit Encinitas road, ejaculating into the dirt in order to avoid leaving DNA evidence.

Defense attorneys tried to argue Winslow had been wrongly accused by questioning the lack of physical evidence in the case. They pointed out Doe had no bruising or DNA under her fingernails, nor did she have marks on her neck from where Winslow allegedly choked her so hard that she could scarcely speak or breathe.

Jane Doe 3: Winslow exposed himself to her in yard (guilty)

Jane Doe No. 3 accused Winslow of his exposing his erect penis to her last year while she was gardening in her front yard. GPS data from Winslow’s Strava fitness application corroborated that he bicycled by her home at roughly the time the alleged incident occurred and the backpack and clothing she described her assailant wearing matched gear police later seized from Winslow’s house.

Jane Doe 5: Lewd conduct in gym (guilty/not guilty)

Jane Doe No. 5 accused Winslow of pleasuring himself in front of her at a Carlsbad gym just a few months ago when the former tight end was out on bail. On one occasion, Winslow allegedly stroked himself while sitting on an exercise machine just a few feet away from her and looking right at her. On this charge, the jury found him guilty. On another, he spotted her alone in the jacuzzi, sat right next to her and allegedly did it again. The jury found him not guilty of this charge.

Jane Doe 1: Alleges Winslow raped her in mall parking lot (deadlocked)

The defense was most successful discrediting an unemployed 55-year-old woman who testified that Winslow picked her up hitchhiking on St. Patrick’s Day 2018, threatened to kill her if she tried to flee and then raped her in the parking lot of an Escondido shopping center. Jane Doe No. 1 veered off topic and contradicted herself often during her testimony and was even caught in a lie about her history with alcohol, a damaging moment in a case that centered around the believability of Winslow’s accusers.

Under cross examination, Doe struggled to explain why she didn’t take advantage of multiple chances she had to escape, to use her cell phone to call 9-1-1 or to shout for help.

At one point during the alleged attack, Doe was on the opposite side of a 5-foot tall chain link fence from Winslow, some 50 feet away from a crowded Von’s grocery store, a 24-Hour Fitness and a sushi restaurant. Instead of screaming or fleeing, she followed Winslow over the fence, a decision she attributed to fear of her bigger, stronger assailant but defense attorneys painted as symptomatic of consensual sex, not rape.

“A naked man, a naked perpetrator, a naked rapist on the other side of the fence and you are 20 feet from freedom,” defense attorney Marc Carlos said during his closing argument. “Don’t tell me she was frozen in fear. If that’s not reasonable doubt, I don’t know what is.”

The other two women who accused Winslow of rape redeemed the prosecution’s case with their poignant testimony.

Jane Doe 4: Alleges Winslow raped her at 2003 house party (deadlocked)

Hearing the accusations made by Jane Doe No. 1 and No. 2 inspired a third alleged victim to come forward. Jane Doe No. 4 previously had only shared her traumatic story with a close high school friend, an ex-boyfriend and a man who is now her husband.

Doe testified that Winslow raped her after a 2003 house party in the San Diego suburbs. She recalled waking up from a drunken fog to find herself on all fours on an unfamiliar bed with Winslow penetrating her from behind while pushing her face into another man’s penis.

In his closing argument, Carlos seized upon the differences in the story Doe told the police officer who fielded her initial call last June and what she testified. Carlos also questioned how Doe could have blacked out when she only downed two or three beers at the party and Winslow was never in position to drug her.

The significance of the misdemeanor allegations against Winslow was the pattern of behavior they potentially established. The prosecution surely hoped the allegations of lewd conduct and indecent exposure levied by Jane Doe No. 3 and No. 5 would color the jury’s perception of the three rape charges.

The fact that the government was able to put all five crimes into one case made it much more difficult for Winslow’s attorneys to prove his innocence. Carlos pleaded with the jury to consider each case separately during his closing argument, while Owens was quick to counter that “lightning certainly doesn’t strike twice, let alone five times.”

Dan Wetzel contributed to this story.

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