Willie Meggs and the State Attorney's Office will huddle in the coming days once it receives all of its evidence, and decide whether to charge Florida State starting quarterback Jameis Winston with sexual battery. The decision is now likely to come after Thanksgiving, according to what Meggs told the Associated Press. This was confirmed Monday.
In the meantime, I'll take a look at what will go into the decision.
Meggs says that before they file a case, they must have a "reasonable likelihood of conviction" at trial http://t.co/Kj3yMPOajD— TomahawkNation.com (@TomahawkNation) November 21, 2013
This is important. If all that was needed to bring a charge was a claim, celebrities would never stop going on trial. Think of the standard as a filter to keep out more frivolous claims and accusations.
Ultimately, despite the bizarre amount of information publicly leaked about a case in which a person has not even been charged, we still have a lot that is unknown publicly. But it should be known by the State Attorney's Office.
Meggs and his associates must consider many different issues.
Willie Meggs must be convinced that the complainant is both a credible, competent, and willing complainant and witness capable upon which the state can build a case with a "reasonable likelihood of conviction."
Does she now want to cooperate with the investigation? Did she really stop communicating with police and indicate that she was not interested in moving forward with the investigation in February, as the police claim? Or was she always available to them, and never indicated that she wanted to drop the investigation, as her family claims?
A lot goes into this. Meggs must believe that the complainant truly wants to go through such an ordeal. If he senses that she is being dragged into this by angry parents or by a zealous family friend attorney, and that she doesn't really want to see it through, it will be tough to bring charges.
But this isn't just about desire. Credibility matters.
A big part of this might have to be viewed through the lens of the TPD detective, according to the complainant's family, warning the complainant about going through with the complaint because:
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.
This leads into the matter of the alleged coverup by the TPD. After conducting its own investigation, does the State Attorney's Office find the investigation done by the TPD to be fair? Is there actually evidence of a coverup? Given the recent bad press for Tallahassee Police Department, do the complainant's suggestions that the department encouraged her to drop the matter, or that TPD was improperly communicating with FSU and/or Winston's attorney factor into the decision to charge Winston?
Furthermore, does the complainant's decision to issue statements to the press make it more difficult to prosecute the case? Assuming the statements are admissible, do they cast doubt on the viability of the overall investigation such that it accidentally destroys the likelihood of a conviction, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt?
How much weight will be given to immediacy with which the complainant acted? Meaning, the complainant calling the police and going through the potentially painful and certainly embarrassing process of having a "rape kit" done on the night in question?
What was the story that she initially told police? Has the story changed? And if so, did it change because of the alleged TPD coverup or intimidation?
Remember, her initial story has not been released publicly.
The only details released were from the family's statement, consisting of the claim that Winston raped the complainant and that his roommate (still unidentified publicly) witnessed it. There was also a blurb appearing only in the Tampa Bay Times about a cab ride and an unknown shot:
The victim had been drinking and was offered a shot by an unknown person, Tallahassee Police Information Officer Scott Beck said last week. She left a bar in a cab and reported an assault a few hours later to police, who collected physical and photographic evidence.
The public cannot evaluate the complainant's story without knowing what it is. That is the job of the SAO.
Is her original story easily understood and accepted by a jury? Is it the same story that she is now telling? If not, how many versions has she told? How much does her current story vary from the initial story(s)? If it varies wildly, that could make it very, very difficult indeed to meet the standard. But if the story varies slightly, the question will be one of reason? If there are inconsistencies, why are her stories inconsistent? Is the reason behind the changed stories one that is easily explained to and accepted by a jury?
There is also the issue of intoxication, or the lack thereof. If the complainant was not intoxicated, as is the claim of the family -- one apparently backed by the toxicology report, then how was she unable to identify Winston for a month or more? How would a jury view the delay?
Did the complainant know Mr. Winston before the night in question? The family's attorney said that the complainant did not know him, thus explaining the inability to identify him for at least a month (again, this goes to the credibility of the complainant's claim).
But what if she did know him? In what context? Did they have any sort of relationship? That could certainly be very damaging to the claim.
And what was the contact like, if any at all, after the alleged incident? Are there any text messages, snapchats, etc? If those exist, and they are found, that could indeed weigh heavily in the decision making process.
And if a relationship existed, what, if anything, did either party tell their friends about it?
What of witnesses for the complainant? Are there any? If so, what can they offer?
Then there is the matter of the forensic evidence. Was it obtained in a timely fashion? If so, what did it reveal? This is often one of the most important elements of a sexual battery case. While we know some of the leaked DNA results, we do not yet know about the rest of the forensic evidence. That could be the most important element of all.
These are all questions that the defense could raise at a potential trial, and thus questions Meggs and his team must consider in evaluating whether they can meet the standard to charge.
On the other hand, Winston has exercised his right to remain silent and refused to talk with investigators. But his defense team has submitted two affidavits from witnesses that it claims will clear Winston of any wrongdoing.
There are a ton of questions about the affidavits. From who were they given? When were they given? If they were given recently, were they a result of collusion -- a possibility initial comments from Willie Meggs seemed to contemplate? Are they trustworthy? What is the relationship of the affiants to Winston? To the complainant? Are they teammates of his?
And what exactly are they swearing to? Are their stories from the same part of the evening, or are they different? Did they see Winston involved in some sort of sexual act with the complainant? If so, what sort of act? Do they offer specific details? If so, are they details that are indicative of consent, or lack thereof?
Also of note is the detail that DNA was given by one of the witnesses. Why was that done? Was that DNA also matched to DNA found on the complainant, as ESPN reported was the case with Jameis Winston's DNA? If so, what events led to that? And how does that change the story? Does it impact the credibility of the witness? Does it negatively impact the complainant's case? Did the victim initially or at any point say anything that could support a theory involving two DNA samples?
Then, there are the unknown subpoenas mentioned by Willie Meggs Thursday. To whom or for what were they issued? Were they for witnesses, documents, social media, phone, text or other electronic records? Does the time that has elapsed since the date of the alleged incident prejudice the investigation and the discovery of potentially key electronic evidence? If a lot of electronic records have been subpoena'd, it could take a while for the various keepers of the data to comply, and longer still for the SAO to review the records.
As you can see, this is an already complicated matter made further so by the 11-month delay and a ridiculous amount of coverage before any charges have been brought.
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