Jameis Winston is the quarterback for Florida State University, the top ranked college football team in America, which will play for the sport’s National Championship after winning their conference title Dec. 7. He was also the focus of an investigation, that alleged he raped a student last winter. After a bizarre series of stops and starts, twists and turns, and embarrassing official missteps, the State Attorney chose not charge Winston in the case. Citing a lack of evidence, spotty cooperation, and “memory lapses” from the accuser, prosecutor announced at a press conference that, “after careful consideration no charges will be filed against anyone in this case.”
The reactions were to be expected. Fans of the football team were relieved in the aftermath, although according to ESPN’s Mark Swarz on “Outside The Lines,” the general atmosphere on campus was measured and not celebratory. Among television and radio personalities, there was the usual lip-service of respecting the process. The most common criticism was the tone of levity at points during the press conference, with some contending it would have a chilling effect, making future victims reluctant to come forward.
Spinning forward, this matter is hardly put to rest. Following are questions, speculations, observations and conclusions based on the official reports and coverage of the entire saga.
UNIVERSITY DISCIPLINE STILL POSSIBLE
The Florida State University Code Of Student Conduct proscribe both “Sexual Miscounduct” “Recording Of Images without consent” and “Harassment.” Under a Preponderance of Evidence standard, which is has always been the standard at FSU for all cases, sexual misconduct is defined, in part, as “any sex act that occurs without consent,” consent being defined as “willing and clear participation in the sex act.” Consent is not freely given absent that which is “clear and verbal,” or is brought about by force, threat of force or coercion.” Lack of consent includes a participant who is “under the influence of alcohol or drugs” or who is “unconscious, sleeping, ill or in shock.” Misconduct can also include any “unwelcome or unwanted gender-based behaviors.” Harassment includes acts that “invade the privacy of another.”
This code could not only implicate Winston, but his teammates, who admitted to having viewed the event, but not taking part. There is also suggestion one may have attempted to record the event, but did not upon protest from the accuser. I made inquiry as to whether there is Code Violation case in progress on this matter, but Emails to Dean Of Students Jeannine Ward-Roof and Victim Advocate Melissa Ashton were not returned, and neither were calls to Florida State Sports Information Director Kerwin Lonzo.
LACK OF ANALYSIS OF THE STATE ATTORNEY’S REPORT
Most glaringly absent in the aftermath was analysis of, well, the actual police and state attorney’s reports. That may due in part to laziness, but also embarrassment. Indeed, a thorough reading illuminates how much of the narrative the sports media and punditry got patently wrong, or how they were misled, and in turn, mislead us.
Credit should first be given to Bleacher Report’s Matt Fitzgerald, who, instead of having a fainting spell over the conduct of a press conference, did what neither ESPN, CBSSports, USA Today nor almost any other major sports news organization did; he actually read, and wrote a summary of, the police and state attorney’s evidence. But hey, why spend time digging into the collateral evidence (you know, that “reporting” thing) when pearl-clutching is so much easier? Especially when even a cursory review reveals what likely did not occur.
From the start, I gave the accuser to benefit of the doubt. Like the Steubenville victim, she immediately went to police, gave her story, submitted a rape kit, and cooperated with police. Or so went the narrative.
Too bad some of it wasn’t true.
As promised, State Attorney Willie Meggs released all police, investigative and lab reports in the case. The first thing they reveal that isn’t kosher is the sequence of reports.
You see, it wasn’t the accuser who first reported the rape to police. It was her friends. . .who weren’t there.
Nonetheless, I do not blame Bria Harvey and Jenna Weisberg for calling the police. Indeed, they should be applauded. If my friend had texted me that 3 random men clubbed her upside the head outside the club, and that her next memory was being on a bathroom floor with a strange man between her legs, I’d call the cops too. Of course, I’d assume that the part of about the caveman act preceding the sexual assault would find itself into her report. It did not.
As for the intervening time period, the accuser’s memory was remarkably clear in at least one account, from men fumbling to pay a cabbie, to being badgered to invite her girlfriends, to walking into the apartment, to having her clothes removed, to suggesting one of the other players told Winston to “stop.”
It’s no wonder, then, that 1) the accuser told her friends not to tell the police or her parents (they of course did not comply) and 2) she refused to cooperate with police after February
Indeed, when ESPN’s Mark Schlabach asked Willie Meggs about whether he believed the accuser to be credible, his pause was as pregnant as the Godzilla in the 1998 movie.
It appears the accuser may have gone Mel Gibson and played the “Pack Of N*g***s” card, which sends chills down my spine as a black man, especially in the wake of the recent posthumous pardon of the Scottsboro boys. That trope undergirded the Central Park Jogger “Wilding”case , and allowed the Parkside rapist to go free and rape more women. Black male threat-narratives have also led to riots which have burned down entire towns, like Tulsa, and were behind scores of lynchings.
Could she have embellished a true story to make it stick? Or was it a red herring to hide some sense of regret? None of us know, nor likely will we ever.
REACTION TO MEGGS PRESS CONFERENCE DEMEANOR, DET. WARNINGS FURTHER PROOF “RAPE CULTURE” IS A CANARD
I’m watching textile stocks very closely. They’re sure to go up considering what should be assumed to be a spike in cape sales. How else to explain the scores of Caped Crusaders in sports media who swooped down to rescue thousands of faceless women, whether it be from the Evil Prosecutor, laughing like Jack Nicholson’s Joker, or the obstructionist Detective, erecting a “rape culture” firewall in an effort to intimidate the “victim?”
Were there moments during the State Attorney’s press conference that made me squirm? Sure. Was it tone-deaf? Certainly, considering who was watching and the subject matter. But let’s not forget the laughter came mostly from the assembled media, and usually to a dumb question (Q: “Was there a sexual assault” A: “I think that’s why we’re here”). Could it have also been nervous laughter? Keep in mind that even soldiers facing bullets have been known to indulge a bit of gallows humor. Oh, and lest the press forget, the focus should primarily be on what is said.
Nevertheless, sports media tripped over themselves in outrage, implying a 35 minute conference with three moments of brief levity was Robin Williams Weapons Of Self Destruction, many in real-time, such as Dan Wetzel of yahoo! sports
Of course once USA Today’s Christine Brennan set off the dog whistle, it was a Doberman-like feeding frenzy. Over the ensuing 2-3 days, it was universal as man after man after man came down harshly on the state attorney.
Fine. Willie Meggs is big boy, and can answer for himself and to his constituents in Leon County Florida in the next election. But at some point, the hyperventilating should desist, and reporting must begin. Like, say, vetting Meggs’ claim that he prosecutes athletes which, upon examination, proves true in just the last few months in the case of senior receiver Greg Dent.
Emblematic as well of the cognitive dissonance of the “rape culture” narrative in sports is that the same folks sounding the alarm over possible post-decision pilloring of the accuser, were the same who castigated the lead detective for warning her, well, that she may be pilloried for bringing the case. Indeed, rape-crisis zealots use the anonymous, sophomoric insults from feral fanboys to prove too much, conflating naked self-interest with generalized contempt for victims. Gender ideologues and their proxies could give Garfield’s sidekick Odie lessons on how to chase their own tails.
The reality is, tsunami of invective sustained by the Tallahassee State Attorney parallels the typical reaction of men when they hear that a woman is raped, especially if the know her.
That is to say, they typically go ape-shit.
The annals of the criminal corpus are replete with examples of proxy violence by men against men who were merely alleged by one woman to have transgressed sexually. High profile cases include John White, who shot high schooler Daniel Cicciaro after Cicciaro led a mob to his home, chasing his son to deal out justice over a rape-threat hoax. As we speak, college professor Norma Esparza is being held to answer for the murder of Gonzalo Ramirez. In 1995, she allegedly told someone Ramirez raped her, and he was subsequently found chopped into bite-size bits. Of course, victim’s groups, ever enthralled by the myth of Universal Accusation Veracity, are rallying to her defense.
WILL GENDER IDEOLOGUES AND WHITE KNIGHTS BEHAVE THEMSELVES?
Recent history suggests otherwise. From Dave Zirin calling for the shutdown of Notre Dame’s football program after a young lady’s suicide 10 days after a groping allegation (contrary to the zealots’ claims, it was NOT a rape) to the post-Duke LaCrosse fallout which ranged from the smirking Schadenfreude of Amanda Marcotte, to the obstinate belligerence of Selena Roberts , shameless demagoguery has been the coin of the realm(although to be fair, ESPN’s Jemele Hill actually issued an apology). A national month of mourning and gender guilt-mongering followed the murder of Kassandra Perkins, three years after no one in sports media, and few in the general media, called the murder of Steve McNair “domestic violence,” some even saying out loud that he deserved it.
Indeed, as events unfolded, ESPN’s Jemele Hill took full advantage of her platform, touting the litany of rape-hysteria talking points on Mike & Mike, from how rare false accusations are (the good folks at www.cotwa.info would beg to differ), to how much it “bothered her” that Winston invoked his 5th Amendment rights to remain silent until a charge was levied.
Predictably, the concessions after the decision not to charge were of the standard, paint-by-numbers variety, if half-hearted: “we must respect the system/Jameis Winston is innocent because the system says he is/he should receive the Heisman trophy,” most prefaced by the standard disclaimer “we don’t know what happened in that night and we never will.” (More on that later). Indeed most were willing to let the matter go, with the appropriate acknowledgement of the ordeals victims go through.
Of course, parting blows were still in order. Colin Cowherd’s December 6th opening rant was a fountain of fallacies, which could not have been better delivered by Mary Koss herself. Reporter Heather Cox lived every victim advocate’s wet dream, delivering five questions about the case just seconds after the Florida State victory to sent them to the National Championship.
Now, as a journalist by practice, let me state that for Cox to not ask one question along the lines of “how did this investigation affect you” would have been malpractice. But then two… then three… four… FIVE? On a night where there were so many game related storylines (namely, “Jameis, why did you throw the ball so erratically in the first half”), it was amateurish and gratuitous.
Emblematic of the uneven response to the matter was the Sunday morning ESPN show The Sports Reporters, paneled by columnists and best-selling authors Mike Lupica and Mitch Albom, and Miami columnist Israel Gutierrez. The tenor of the discussion moved from sanctimonious to measured and balanced. Although he was clearly struggling with the issues, Lupica found himself unable to lessen his hold on innuendo, adding that “something made this young lady come forward.” (Mike may want to do some research on “regret asymmetry”). Gutierrez was even-handed, reminding the panel that “seedy sexual encounters” are commonplace on all corners at any college, not just among athletes. Though Albom was mostly fair to Winston, he couldn’t help but invoke the moral hazard card, stating that the message to athletes is “don’t put yourself in these situations.” If that sounds familiar, it was called victim-blaming when Serena Williams said something similar (albeit ham-handed) about the Steubenville victim last year, and was lambasted for it. Or is it only victim-blaming to suggest to young women that drinking to excess could make one vulnerable to, well, two meatheads who can’t keep their hands to themselves? How about sending a message to women to stop falsely accusing by, you know, prosecuting such women? Maybe Reginald Daye might be alive, another inconvenient truth sports media does not want to come to grips with.
The fallout from this case isn’t over, as the accuser’s counsel called for an independent Attorney General investigation on December 13, although there are doubts as to whether such an investigation will happen since evidence of wrongdoing by the original investigators is pretty thin so far. Make no mistake, though, for “rape crisis’ advocates, every stage of a high-profile case is not a search for truth, but an ideological battle station. Every press conference, every criminal/civil/school proceeding, every broadcast, every release of information–likely, even Jameis winning the Heisman this weekend (winning despite having been dropped from about 13% of Heisman ballots because of the allegations) will be used as a way to leverage their industry to higher visibility. If and when they are on the side of truth, they will deserve support. Where they shamelessly advance their destructive narrative, on the other hand, they must be resisted.
We’ll be watching.
Editor’s note: image of Jameis Winston from Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons Attribution license.