Note: The following is the opinion of the author of this article and does not necessarily reflect the views of BucsNation.com or SBNation.
Like you, I'm very concerned with the off-the-field incidents in regards to Jameis Winston. From the crab leg theft to the offensive outburst at a school gathering he's shown some major judgment issues outside the lines. The most troubling, of course, is the rape allegation against him. So many have pre-judged Winston in this case, it was really difficult to get a true unbiased account of the incident (other than public court record, of course). I reached out to some of my contacts in Tallahassee to see if we can start putting some pieces together on what may have occurred that night.
Let's start by saying rape is one of the worst crimes imaginable and we hope for justice for anyone who has been subjected to it. It doesn't matter if the perpetrator of the crime is a star athlete or some other scum bag. They are (or at least should be) equal in the eyes of the law. Too many times the burden of proof for the traumatized victim and the sheer disbelief that one of our stars can fall in this way causes victims to hide from the limelight and never report or suffer through terrible scrutiny, even with the laws protecting accusers identities. Its a courageous woman who can overcome these and fight for justice. Darren Sharper is a prime example of an athlete who believed he was untouchable and became a serial rapist.
However, there's been plenty of cases where there could very well be more things at play than we know (Duke LaCrosse team). Everyone deserves to be judged by the proof of the evidence and there shouldn't be a rush to judgment.
There are some troubling aspects to the case, no doubt, as highlighted in an expose done by the New York Times.
But there are also some inconsistencies in the accuser's story.
Initially, she claimed she was knocked out after being given a drink and when she came to someone was on top of her sexually assaulting her. Later that day she described her rapist as being 5'9"-5'11" to the police. Toxicology reports showed no traces of any kind of date rape drugs in her system and Jameis certainly isn't 5'9"-5'11".
To be fair, most victims of violent crime struggle with the details early in the investigation and often have this occur. Police are supposed to be trained to recognize these inconsistencies and understand they don't necessarily indicate any falsehood in statements.
Some time later she identified Winston as the rapist after seeing him in class. This was right around the same time Winston was emerging as a football star. FSU offered to transfer her from the class but she declined and finished out the semester.
The biggest question one has to ask is why would the accuser lie? Its unfair to the alleged victim to speculate on specific reasons but we've seen it happen before. With that said, there's just as much of a possibility she isn't lying and just didn't have enough evidence to prove in in the court of law. We can't know and the only people who know the truth are Winston, the accuser and the witnesses on site.
As for the other girl cited in the complaint, she is apparently the same one mentioned in the NY Times article. She told counselors that no rape occurred but she was uncomfortable with the nature of the encounter with Winston.
Now, did TPD drop the ball in the investigation? It looks like they definitely did. They wrote her off as another co-ed who had regrets after a one night stand with a football player. There was crucial evidence that was lost or ignored (apparently Jameis' friend and teammate filmed part of the sexual encounter which was later deleted and police also never viewed the security footage from the establishment where the accuser allegedly received the spiked drink).
Was there a cover up by FSU? It's doubtful. Winston wasn't famous Jameis at the time of the incident, he was just another freshman and FSU certainly didn't cover up the investigation of Greg Dent, a player with much more noteriety than Winston had at the time. However, just for full transparency, 70 US Universities (including FSU) are under Federal Review for Mishandling Rape Cases. Coverups have happened before and possibly even at Florida State.
Further, the state attorney has been no friend to FSU, some say he has even been a bigger witch hunter in regards to athletes. He couldn't find enough evidence to charge Winston in this case.
A Florida Supreme Court justice with no ties to FSU or the Tallahassee PD cleared him in the student trial because there was circumstantial evidence that supported both sides and nothing that could sway him one way or the other. In every legal proceeding in this case, Winston has been found not guilty.
This is not to say that Winston is a saint. He obviously is a very promiscuous college kid, as most college males are. He got himself into this situation because of it. Is he more than that? There apparently isn't enough evidence to support that at this point. So unless there's a Cosby-style avalanche of accusers who start coming out of the woodwork I think it's going to be hard for any team, including the Buccaneers, to be able to rule him out on this incident alone.
Our friends at Tomahawk Nation have a great summary of the information brought to light with the New York Times article and some crucial facts that the article ignored or purposely left out because it didn't fit the narrative.
I've been told that Jameis is a victim of character assassination and the media is looking to bring down a star athlete. I'm not sure I buy all that, as I think most of his issues were self inflicted. No one made Jameis steal crab legs from Publix or shout obscenities. Those are decisions he made alone.
Those close to Winston say he's a great kid that is beloved by his teammates and coaches. He's a fun loving guy who enjoys life. He's not the monster he's portrayed to be. If he wasn't Jameis Winston - football star - no one would bat an eyelash at some of his crazy school antics. His only charge against him was the crab legs incident - and let's face it, he's not the first college athlete who believed he had an "understanding" with local establishments. He's never been found to be in possession of drugs or ever had any sort of illegal activity that would suggest he is a miscreant.
One thing is certain - he's a hell of a football player. Some say he's the best QB to come out since Andrew Luck. Most analysts rate him higher than Marcus Mariota. We have four months to debate that and the Buccaneers will have four months to dig into Jameis' closet and try to find all the skeletons hidden there.
What they find may never be made public, but rest assured, they will leave no stone unturned. If he is the first overall pick in the draft, then the Bucs believe he can be the face of the franchise. At that point, we would need to accept that if there was some dirt to find on him, they would have found it and they're comfortable with Winston the man as much as they are Winston the football player.
If he falls like a rock, then perhaps there's fire along with that smoke.
This article wasn't in favor of Winston. It was an attempt to cut through the b.s. that has been floating out there about this young man and try to peel down. There's a petition online requesting the Bucs to refuse to draft him because of his "misdeeds". Calls are being fielded at the Buccaneer ticket office from fans who say they will cancel their season tickets if he's drafted.
Ultimately, if Winston is the pick you, as a Bucs fan, will need to look within yourself to decide whether you can root for him.
Please note: An earlier version of this article contained content offensive to some readers. It was a poor decision on my part to include conjecture and supposition that could result in some taking the view that I was intending to "victim blame" the accuser. It was my intent to provide all the facts regarding this case and let you make up your own mind. I understand and acknowledge there were aspects of the way I decribed those events that had a result that was unintended. For anyone offended by those elements, I am truly sorry. I have close friends who have endured this heinous act and I do take this subject very serious. I support Sander's decision to pull the original article. I don't consider it being censored, moreso, he did what a good editor is supposed to do - saved me from a poorly articulated article regarding a very sensitive subject. I take full responsibility for what was written - I was wrong. I hope the new version of the article reflects more what I intended to accomplish. - JC De La Torre