TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The family and attorney of the alleged victim in a sexual assault investigation involving Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston on Wednesday sharply criticized Tallahassee police in their first public comments about the case.
The lengthy family statement said their attorney, Patricia Carroll, was warned by police that 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.”
The statement which was first provided to the Tampa Bay Times, also said the woman “cannot fathom” why local prosecutors were not told about the investigation involving Winston until last week. Winston’s attorney has repeatedly maintained his client has done nothing wrong.
Several city officials — including the interim police chief — held a hastily arranged press conference on Wednesday evening but they refused to respond to the specific allegations made against city police.
Tom Coe, the interim police chief, contended that the case was put on hold last February when the accuser “broke off contact” and Carroll “indicated” that the woman “did not want to move forward at that time.”
Coe, without addressing any specifics, said statements are being made about the case and “some are not factual.”
“We fully understand there is immense interest in this nationwide case,” Coe said. “…My role as police chief is to protect the rights of everyone involved, the integrity of this investigation and to make sure it’s conducted fairly and impartially and we try to get the truth in this case.”
Winston was a top freshman recruit and backup quarterback at the time of the alleged December 2012 assault, but is now a Heisman Trophy candidate and the Seminoles are the second-ranked football team in the country.
The family said in their statement that the woman did not initially know the identity of who assaulted her and did not identify the alleged attacker as Winston until January.
Carroll, in an interview with The Associated Press, disputed the assertion by City Manager Anita Favors Thompson and Coe that the investigation into the alleged assault was put on hold because the woman no longer wanted to prosecute.
Favors Thompson, saying that she anticipated national media interest because of Winston’s celebrity, emailed that information to the Tallahassee mayor and city commissioners on Nov. 12. Her email stated police “stopped getting responses from the young woman and could no longer contact her for additional follow up and information after many attempts to do so.
The city manager said an attorney representing the alleged victim’s family said she “changed her mind and did not wish to prosecute.”
Carroll, however, said that the woman never told police she did not want to press charges.