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ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. – In a news conference held in a quiet park here by a small lake, the attorney for the woman accusing Jameis Winston of sexual assault outlined what she feels is an abject failure of authorities to properly investigate a case that resulted in the Florida State quarterback being cleared of criminal wrongdoing.
“This was an investigation of a rape victim,” Patricia Carroll said, “not an investigation of a rape suspect."
Carroll called on the Florida attorney general to independently examine how the investigation was handled by the Tallahassee Police Department and by state attorney Willie Meggs, who decided not to charge Winston last week.
“There is an abundance of evidence to support that a young lady has been raped,” she said.
Carroll put forth a list of arguments for her assertion, starting by slamming down a pile of 152 pages of records from the state’s investigation involving the accuser, compared to 11 pages she said included Winston’s name. She went on from there, claiming she asked last January for a DNA sample from Winston and that the Tallahassee Police Department refused to gather one. She held up two pieces of paper showing medical records of the accuser, with one showing signs of physical injury and a prescription for pain medication and the other, a copy released to the press, without that information. Carroll said the information “is not redacted; it’s missing entirely.”
She accused the Tallahassee police of failing to execute a search warrant for Winston’s phone records and for failing to record interviews of the two Florida State teammates who claimed to have witnessed the interaction on the night of the alleged assault last December. Perhaps most significantly, Carroll insisted authorities failed to properly test her client for the presence of a rape drug. She said the accuser’s subsequent head pain and intermittent memory were “completely consistent” with the effects of such a drug. The gaps in the accuser’s account is one of the reasons Meggs decided not to charge Winston.
Asked by a reporter if she felt there was a cover-up to protect a star football player, Carroll said, “It appears to be a complete failure. Do I believe that is related to the fact that the gentleman was on the football team? Yes, I do.”
The news conference lasted more than an hour and had none of the jokes or laughter of Meggs’ announcement last week. Carroll said she lost confidence in the police investigation quickly. Further, she worried this case would have a chilling effect on other women who feel they have been assaulted.
“I fear it will,” she said, “It is going to affect other victims reporting.”
The setting, outdoors on a beautiful Florida day with birds flying overhead, took away from the gravity of the subject matter. A few local residents stood behind the cameras and made comments. One onlooker screamed, “Go Gators!” at one point.
The tone was restored, however, when Carroll told reporters the accuser was “not doing well,” had left school “for safety reasons,” and “had her life turned upside down.” When asked about her client’s reaction to watching Meggs’ news conference on television, Carroll paused for a moment and said, “She cried.”
Neither the accuser nor any members of her family were present at Friday's news conference.
Carroll said Winston’s accuser has not decided to file a civil suit at this time. It is unclear what legal action, if any, will be taken next. Carroll added she wants the state attorney general to look into whether there’s a “systemic problem in the Tallahassee Police Department, or in rape cases involving football players.”
A spokesman for the Tallahassee Police Department told the Associated Press on Friday, "The case is closed, and we continue to support Mr. Meggs as we have done throughout this process.”
Winston's attorney has repeatedly insisted that sex between his client and the accuser was consensual. The Florida State quarterback is a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded Saturday night in New York City.