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Prosecutor: Florida State Quarterback Won't Be Charged With Sex Assault

Jameis Winston has led the Seminoles to a No. 1 ranking and a shot at a national championship if they defeat Duke this Saturday

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    AP
    In this Sept. 21, 2013, file photo, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston watches from the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Bethune-Cookman in Tallahassee, Fla.

    Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs said Thursday that no charges will be filed against Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston in relation to a sex assault investigation.

    Meggs made the announcement at a news conference, saying there was not enough evidence to win a conviction.

    "After reviewing all the evidence in the case, we did not feel like we could meet that burden," Meggs said.

    A woman who accused Winston, a Heisman Trophy contender, of sexual assault told police she was raped at an apartment after a night of drinking at a bar, according to a search warrant released hours before Meggs made his announcement.

    In the warrant from January, the alleged victim told police she and friends had five to six shots at Potbellys and her "memory is very broken from that point forward." She said she remembered being in a cab with a "non-descript" black man and going into an apartment where she was raped. The woman didn't identify Winston, who is black, until about a month after the alleged assault a year ago.

    The warrant said she tried to fight the man off, and at some point, another man came into the room and told him to stop. But the two went into a bathroom "where he completed the act."

    Her next memory was of the suspect dressing her, putting her on a scooter and dropping her off at a campus intersection. She said she had no idea where the alleged assault took place.

    Meggs said Wednesday his office had "exhausted all investigative tools" since the case was handed over to his office in mid-November.

    "We have learned as much as we can learn," said Meggs, who announced his findings at a 2 p.m. news conference at the Leon County Courthouse.

    Patricia Carroll, the attorney representing the accuser's family, released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

    "The victim and her family appreciate the State Attorney's efforts in attempting to conduct a proper investigation after an inordinate delay by the Tallahassee Police Department. The victim in this case had the courage to immediately report her rape to the police and she relied upon them to seek justice. The victim has grave concerns that her experience, as it unfolded in the public eye and through social media, will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting."

    The details of the alleged rape were contained in a search warrant for cellphone records, including text messages. The warrant said the woman sent multiple text messages after the alleged assault, but it did not say what they said.

    In the short time since Meggs' office took over the case, investigators have taken DNA from Winston, interviewed the victim and looked at other evidence.

    ESPN reported that DNA found in the accuser's underwear matched Winston. But Winston's attorney, Timothy Jansen, has suggested Winston had consensual sex with the accuser and he expects the prosecutor will exonerate his client.

    "If he looked at evidence we did, we feel confident he will find that Mr. Winston did nothing wrong," Jansen said.

    Jansen plans to have Winston briefly address the media at 3:30 p.m.

    Winston, 19, has led the Seminoles to a No. 1 ranking and a shot at a national championship if they defeat Duke on Saturday.

    Many voters were waiting to see whether Winston would be charged with a crime before casting their ballots. The deadline for ballots is Monday, and the trophy is awarded Dec. 14.

    Florida State policy dictates that a student-athlete is suspended from game action if charged with a felony until the charge is resolved "absent extraordinary circumstances as determined by the administration."

    Meggs said Wednesday that the investigation results should answer some lingering questions about how the investigation was handled and why it took 11 months before prosecutors were notified.

    "When you all look at this, when the dust all settles, you'll say, 'Man, there were some things that could have been done back in December of '12 that could have cleared this up a whole lot easier than November of 2013," he said.

    The alleged sexual assault was first reported to police on Dec. 7, 2012. The family has said the victim did not know the identity of her attacker until early January, when she identified him as Winston. Police said last week that they tried to interview Winston in January but that Jansen at the time told them his client would not answer questions.

    The family has been sharply critical of the way Tallahassee police have handled the case. They said they pushed to have a DNA sample taken from Winston, only to be told by a police detective that it would alert Winston and make the case public. The family said Carroll was warned by police that Tallahassee is 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."

    Tallahassee police have defended their handling of the case and said it was placed on inactive status in February after police were told the alleged victim did not wish to prosecute the case. Carroll has denied that the woman wanted to drop the investigation.

    The alleged victim was an FSU student, but she left school last month after Carroll was told by police that information about the case was about to be released to the media.