Report: Jameis Winston was alone with Uber driver when alleged assault took place in 2016, contradicting earlier reports

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/tam" data-ylk="slk:Tampa Bay Buccaneers">Tampa Bay Buccaneers</a> quarterback Jameis Winston was reportedly alone in an Uber when he allegedly sexually assaulted the female driver in 2016, contradicting earlier reports that multiple people were in the car with him. (Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was reportedly alone in an Uber when he allegedly sexually assaulted the female driver in 2016, contradicting earlier reports that multiple people were in the car with him. (Getty Images)

A friend of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston who was with him the night when Winston allegedly sexually assaulted an Uber driver in 2016 now said that Winston was alone in the Uber car, contradicting the original story that there were three people in the Uber, according to an ESPN report. 

Winston was at a nightclub in Scottsdale, Arizona, in March 2016 with former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks and Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby when “Winston became intoxicated and ‘unruly,’ prompting his friends to send him away in an Uber,” Banks’ attorney told ESPN’s Outside the Lines.

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“What happened after that, they cannot say,” Banks’ attorney, Mark Scruggs, said.

This is a pretty big change from the denial Winston’s camp Darby made following the Uber driver’s — identified only as Kate — accusation that Winston assaulted her in the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant in a BuzzFeed News report last fall. Winston’s camp initially said in a statement that “the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her.”

Darby also said he was a passenger in the car.

“There were three of us in the car, not just one as has been reported. Myself and Jameis were in the backseat,” Darby initially said. “I am confident that nothing inappropriate in nature happened in the car that evening and Jameis did not have any physical contact with the Uber driver. The accusations are just not true.”

Banks — who is currently serving 15 years in prison for aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery for his role in the gang rape of a Vanderbilt student in 2013 — was initially said to have been the passenger in the front seat of the Uber, while Jameis and Darby were in the back.

Scruggs said that is not true.

“Brandon was never in the car with this victim,” Scruggs told ESPN. “They were two different events, two different Uber drivers.”

The only Uber the three did take together that night was before they started partying. That ride was with a different female driver.

Scruggs said that the NFL did not speak to Banks as a part of its investigation into the incident. Representatives of the NFL attempted to talk to him in prison several months ago, though Banks said he would not speak without Scruggs present, as he is currently waiting for a ruling on an appeal of his conviction.

Darby’s agent did not respond to requests for comment from ESPN on Friday, and the Eagles said that Darby was unlikely to comment Friday, too.

Jameis Winston’s alleged incident in the Uber

Kate told BuzzFeed News last fall about the incident with Winston, where she picked him up “around 2 a.m.” A “small group of men excitedly told her that she would be chauffeuring someone famous that night” after placing Winston in the front seat.

From BuzzFeed:

The men placed Winston in the front passenger seat — Kate said he was the only passenger. “I started driving, and right away, Jameis behaved poorly” by shouting, in part, homophobic slurs at pedestrians, said Kate, who did not want to be identified by her full name for fear of negative attention and potential backlash from football fans. He then asked to stop for food.

Waiting in line at the drive-thru of Los Betos Mexican Food, “he reached over and he just grabbed my crotch,” Kate said, alleging that Winston held his hand there for three to five seconds and removed it only after she looked up in shock and said, “What’s up with that?”

“I wasn’t just creeped out,” said Kate, who had been driving with Uber for more than two years at that point. (She no longer drives for the service.) “I was frozen.” She described Winston as “very physically imposing.”

“I mean he’s an NFL quarterback and I’m 5 ft 6. I’m not prepared for that. So I completely froze,” she said, worried that she might provoke an unwanted reaction.

The driver also accused Winston of yelling homophobic slurs at pedestrians. She filed a complaint with Uber soon after the ride, saying in her report that “he is NOT safe for other drivers.”

Winston’s looming suspension

The NFL is planning to suspend Winston for the first three games of next season for violating its personal conduct policy, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Thursday, due to the incident in the Uber.

Winston could consider an appeal. Though if his suspension is pushed back until the 2019-2020 season, missing three games that season would cost Winston significantly more money — as he is due for a massive pay raise after his rookie deal expires at the end of this season.

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