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City official: Winston case halted after woman ‘changed her mind’


Published:   |   Updated: November 20, 2013 at 08:05 AM

TALLAHASSEE — A top Tallahassee official said that an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston was placed on hold for months because the alleged victim decided she did not want to press charges.

One of the lingering questions surrounding the case involving the Heisman Trophy candidate for the No. 2 ranked Seminoles is why it took 11 months for Tallahassee police to hand over information about the alleged December 2012 assault to local prosecutors.

City Manager Anita Favors Thompson, saying that she anticipated national news media interest because of Winston’s celebrity, emailed the information to the Tallahassee mayor and city commissioners on Nov. 12. The Tallahassee Democrat first reported the existence of the email, which The Associated Press later obtained.

Favors Thompson, who reports to the city commission, oversees the police department, which currently does not have a permanent police chief.

Favors Thompson said the woman who filed the complaint got “intoxicated at a local bar” and was then allegedly assaulted. The city manager said that city police immediately began investigating the case after it was first reported to authorities.

But as they started interviewing witnesses, “they 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,” Favors Thompson wrote.

Favors Thompson said that an attorney representing the victim’s family said she “changed her mind and did not wish to prosecute.”

News media outlets have been requesting information about the case from the Tallahassee Police Department. David Northway, a spokesman for the department, said that it is normal policy for the department to review any case that is inactive before information is handed over to the media. He added that investigations are not reactivated solely because of media requests.

In her email, Favors Thompson told city commissioners that the city reached out to the victim to let her know the information had been requested by the news media.

Last week, Tallahassee police released a heavily redacted two-page incident report that does not mention Winston by name, but says an assault took place between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. last Dec. 7. It describes the suspect as being between 5-foot-9 and 5-11. Winston is listed by Florida State at 6-4.

Timothy Jansen, the attorney representing Winston, maintains his client has done nothing wrong. Last week he gave affidavits from two eyewitnesses that he said will “completely exonerate my client.” Jansen has said that he believed the investigation was closed last February.

Four days after the first media request for information, Tallahassee police turned over information to local prosecutors. Prosecutors have begun their own investigation and State Attorney Willie Meggs said he wants to interview the alleged victim, who now lives out of state.

City Commissioner Scott Maddox said that “it is important that the process for this case is handled the same way as any other case.”

“I am going to demand that this case is handled fairly and have full confidence that it will be,” Maddox said.

Meggs told the AP on Saturday that he is concerned that media attention has focused primarily on 19-year-old Winston.

“We have a female victim here, too, and my job is to make sure that this victim or any victim of a crime has their rights protected,” Meggs said. “Everything is now focused on Winston and what’s going to happen to him.”

Winston has continued to play football. Florida State hosts Idaho this week, then takes on the Florida Gators on Nov. 30. Prosecutors have said that they anticipate concluding their investigation in the next couple of weeks.

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