World and Nation

Florida State QB will not be charged with sexual battery

A Florida prosecutor Thursday announced that Florida State University star quarterback Jameis Winston will not face charges of sexual battery.

William N. Meggs, state attorney for Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit, who took over the investigation last month, was critical of the Tallahassee Police Department’s investigation of the reported assault but said he concluded that there was not enough evidence to obtain a conviction.

“We have a duty as prosecutors to determine if each case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” said Meggs, who added that the evidence was carefully examined. “After reviewing the facts in this case, we do not feel that we can reach those burdens.”

Winston, 19, has been the most dominant player in college football this season, and his Florida State team is undefeated and a contender for the national championship. But ever since a sexual assault allegation by a former FSU student became public last month, his on-field exploits have been weighed against how law enforcement in a rabid college football community handled the investigation as well as the role character plays in the awarding of one of sport’s most iconic awards: the Heisman Trophy.

Asked if football players are treated differently, Meggs responded, “We try to treat everybody the same, and I think we have a record of doing that.”

The decision is unlikely to end criticism of how the Tallahassee police handled the investigation, which seemed to have disappeared until the charges became public. Meggs said the Tallahassee police “have been very cooperative, and we accomplished everything we could have hoped to accomplish.”

The 19-year-old woman first reported an off-campus sexual assault to the police Dec. 7, 2012.

The woman’s family said a police investigator warned her lawyer that pursuing the allegation against Winston would subject her to public scorn. The family also accused the Tallahassee police of a halfhearted investigation in which DNA evidence was not collected early and potential witnesses were not spoken with.

The woman told the police she was raped at an apartment after a night of drinking at a bar near campus, according to a search warrant released hours before Meggs’ announcement. She tried to fight the man off, and at some point, another man intervened and told him to stop, according to the warrant. But the two went into a bathroom “where he completed the act.”

Winston, who was voted the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year Wednesday, has continued to play for the top-ranked Seminoles and declined to talk about the investigation.

He also is the front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy, given to college football’s most outstanding player.

The allegations against Winston renewed the debate over whether character and off-field behavior should be considered in voting for the award.