TALLAHASSEE — There was a lot of finger-pointing today in the sexual assault investigation involving Florida State’s Jameis Winston after a DNA report linking the quarterback to the alleged victim was leaked to the media.
Tim Jensen, Winston’s attorney, and State Attorney Willie Meggs held news conferences within minutes of one another. Jensen insinuated that the leak came from Meggs’ office, an assertion the state attorney denied.
Though it is still unclear who leaked the information, Jensen did reveal that Winston voluntarily gave a DNA sample to Tallahassee police last week, but said that even if it matches that of the alleged victim it wouldn’t mean his client raped the woman.
Jansen said the sex between Winston and the accuser “absolutely” was consensual, but then retreated when pressed by reporters who asked him to confirm what he just said.
“I’m not saying that,” Jansen said. “I’m saying the eyewitnesses that were there will verify that any material that was found, or any evidence that was found, is consistent with him (doing) nothing wrong.”
ESPN first reported Wednesday night that Winston’s DNA matched a sample taken from the underwear of the accuser.
Jansen said he has not seen the results of the DNA tests and found out watching television.
“All I know is it’s very suspicious that the only news reporting agency that (State Attorney) Willie Meggs met privately with yesterday in his office was the one that reported that last night on television,” Jansen said. “And that would be ESPN.”
Meggs held a press conference minutes after Jensen’s and denied that he — or anyone in his office — released the DNA information to the media. He called the release of the information “problematic.” He said he did not know who the source of information was for ESPN.
Tallahassee Police Department spokesman David Northway told The Associated Press that the leak did not come from the police.
Meggs, who has been the lead prosecutor in the Tallahassee area for nearly 30 years, also refused to discuss the results or any other “evidence” that was part of the case. But Meggs did acknowledge that prosecutors have issued subpoenas in order to collect evidence for the ongoing investigation.
Jansen said he’s surprised the DNA results were leaked by law enforcement but, “this DNA has no impact whatsoever on this case. The two eyewitnesses that were present will exonerate” Winston.
Jansen said the DNA of one of the eyewitnesses was also taken in the last week by investigators.
“We’re not surprised (Winston’s) DNA was found,” Jansen said. “We anticipated that would be found. We’ve never ever said he wasn’t there. We never said any of that.”
Meggs would not answer directly why DNA was taken from one of the witnesses, or whether or not there is a now a possibility of multiple suspects in the case.
But Meggs said his office was “trying to find all the relevant facts in the case” and that he did not want someone to question later what evidence was or wasn’t gathered.
Winston, 19, was a top freshman recruit and backup quarterback at the time of the alleged December 2012 assault. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound redshirt freshman is now a Heisman Trophy candidate and the Seminoles are the second-ranked football team in the country.
Florida State has maintained during the investigation that Winston’s status has not changed and he is expected to start Saturday when the Seminoles host Idaho.
Tallahassee police handed over information to prosecutors last week about the 11-month-old case after two media organizations began requesting records associated with the incident.
Meggs said today that prosecutors have made “a lot of progress” in their investigation, but would not say if, or when, prosecutors planned to interview the woman who has accused Winston of sexual assault.
“Hopefully we will have a decision about what we will do in the very near future,” Meggs said.
The family and attorney of the alleged victim said Wednesday in a statement that their attorney, Patricia Carroll, was warned by police that Tallahassee was a “big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.”
The family said in their statement that the woman did not initially know the identity of who assaulted her and did not identify the alleged attacker as Winston until January.
City Manager Anita Favors Thompson, saying that she anticipated national media interest because of Winston’s celebrity, emailed that information to the Tallahassee mayor and city commissioners on Nov. 12. Her email stated police “stopped getting responses from the young woman and could no longer contact her for additional follow up and information after many attempts to do so.”
The city manager said an attorney representing the alleged victim’s family said she “changed her mind and did not wish to prosecute.”
The woman, Carroll said, never told police she did not want to press charges.
Carroll, who has offices in Dade City and Tampa, said the woman who accused Winston of rape is from the Tampa area. She was enrolled at FSU on Nov. 12, when the family learned that the sexual assault investigation into the reported last December sexual assault had become active again. The woman has since returned home.
Carroll told The Tampa Tribune she contacted Detective Scott Angulo in January after the woman had identified Winston as the suspect and the family “grew concerned that she would be targeted on campus.’’
The attorney disputed a Tallahassee Democrat report that cited a Nov. 12 email from City Manager Anita Favors Thompson. In the email, Thompson wrote that “a representative of the young woman’s family who is an attorney contacted Tallahassee police and said the young woman had changed her mind and did not wish to prosecute.’’