Florida college football fans may have heard that Jameis Winston, a quarterback for Florida State, has been cleared of an accusation brought by an alleged sexual assault victim.

The quarterback has been the object of national media scrutiny, which is an invasion of privacy that many readers may have difficulty even imaging. However, the player’s spot with Florida State’s team does not appear to be in jeopardy, and he is once again scheduled to play upcoming games. 

The alleged incident arose a year ago, in early December 2012. However, the official investigation did not begin until mid-November 2013. It’s unclear why local Tallahassee police did not take action sooner. The Florida State Attorney’s Office got involved after media outlets began requesting public records requests from the local police. The story then became a national news item.

The victim thanked the state attorney for the quick decision, but expressed concern over the outcome, suggesting that it may have a chilling effect on other sexual assault victims coming forward or seeking help.

This post illustrates the reputational damage that can result after sex crime allegations are mischaracterized by the media. A sex crimes attorney knows that even week or unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations can result in an arrest and charges. However, a case may drag on if the evidence is weak or consists primarily of the alleged victim’s testimony.

In this case, Florida authorities wisely decided to further investigate the incident before deciding whether to officially charge Winston. As it turns out, Winston won’t be charged.

Source: USA Today, “No criminal charges for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston,” Dan Wolken and Daniel Uthman, Dec. 5, 2013