Andrew Skerritt: Details of Jameis Winston case even more troubling than first suspected

There might not have been any new bombshells in this week’s New York Times investigative piece on the Jameis Winston rape allegations, but when the pieces are put together in one coherent narrative, they make this entire episode even more disquieting than we first suspected.

What comes across in The Times’ piece, written by Pulitzer Prize winner and veteran investigative journalist Walt Bogdanich, is that for all the shouting about feminism and the national dialogue about violence against women, Tallahassee is still a boy’s town, football is king and accusations of sexual assault still get short shrift in the state capital. This is unacceptable for a college town full of coeds enrolled at Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College.

Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe I am too harsh on FSU and the Tallahassee Police Department, but anyone except the most rabid of Seminole fans (there’s no shortage of those) has to be troubled by the notion that someone’s daughter was sacrificed at the altar of a much-coveted national championship. Someone did the cost-benefit analysis: no contest.

And what of Jameis Winston? It’s hard to watch him being lauded and not wonder. After a brief investigation, prosecutor Willie Meggs, who is best known for his partiality toward the high and mighty, announced last fall there was insufficient evidence to bring rape charges against the best player in college football. What Meggs didn’t say explicitly enough then and The Times is telling us now was that there was no evidence, not because none ever existed, but because the Tallahassee Police Department never bothered to collect any – neither Winston’s statement nor his DNA, a student video of the actual sexual encounter between Winston and his accuser, camera footage from local bar Potbelly’s, where Winston and the 19-year-old had drinks before he took her home in a taxi, and from the cab driver who drove them home.

Megg’s pseudo investigation was a necessary scene in this sordid drama. His pronouncement was required in order for Heisman voters to proceed with Winston’s coronation. And by leading FSU to the Bowl Championship Series national title, Winston confirmed the rightness of all those decisions made on his behalf. That’s the Seminole narrative.

Without doubt, Winston is not the only villain. Tallahassee Police Detective Scott Angulo shares top billing for fumbling the case from the very beginning. And since he wasn’t punished by his bosses, he should be rewarded. Recently, FSU head football coach Jimbo Fisher gave a BCS National Championship ring to a disabled fan for his unstinting support of the team. Fisher should also give Angulo a ring; the detective earned it.

As I’ve written before, this case reminds us of the corrupting power of big-time college sports and its ability to skew our perspective. On the day The Times’ investigative story appeared under the headline “Top Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Inquiry,” the Tallahassee Democrat’s front page was dominated by the debate over Florida State’s new logo.

Andrew J. Skerritt is author of Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial and the AIDS Epidemic in the South. He lives in Tallahassee. Follow him on Twitter @andrewjskerritt. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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