For the past few months, Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston has been under investigation for a sexual battery that allegedly took place on the FSU campus.
Roughly eleven months after the alleged incident, the alleged victim came forward and claimed that she was the victim of a sexual battery at the hands of the Heisman Trophy hopeful.
Police investigated the claim, which included examining physical evidence that supported the alleged victim’s accusation. However, Winston and his attorney never denied that a sexual encounter occurred. Winston claimed that it was consensual.
There were independent witnesses who came forward who supported Winston’s claim that the alleged victim consented to the sexual activity.
Also, there was evidence that the alleged victim had consumed five or six shots of alcoholic beverage. When alcohol is involved in any situation that requires a witness to recall certain events, their credibility is automatically called into question.
Taken as a whole, the State Attorney concluded that the report had been made eleven months after the incident, there were independent witnesses who contradicted the alleged victim’s statement, and the alleged victim may have been impaired by alcohol at the time, there simply wasn’t enough evidence to charge Winston with a crime.
In order to charge a person with a crime, no matter how serious, the state must have a reasonable belief that the charge could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If there are any doubts as to whether the state can sustain their burden, the wise and prudent (and legal) decision to make is to decline to file charges.
A filing decision is not a declaration of guilt or innocence. It is merely the state’s decision to pursue or decline a case based only on the strength of the evidence.
Sexual battery allegations are common, especially involving high-profile defendants. The State Attorney was correct to exercise caution and decline to file instead of pursuing a weak case just to appease the public who may otherwise think that a college star athlete has gotten away with a crime.
Eric Matheny is a Miami sex crimes lawyer and Broward sex crimes lawyer.