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NYTimes: A Star Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation

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Mumei

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This is a very long article, and so I won't be able to post more than a few excerpts that I found particularly interesting / galling.

I'm also going to preface this with the usual caveats: please read before making sweeping comments; please read before saying something that might make you look really dumb; please read the actual article and not simply the excerpts I've provided. When responding to someone you think is saying something really dumb, please try to address it substantively.

Oh, and play nice. Just because someone said something that hurt you with the power of stupidity doesn't mean you have to be mean.

Early on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012, a freshman at Florida State University reported that she had been raped by a stranger somewhere off campus after a night of drinking at a popular Tallahassee bar called Potbelly’s.

As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear.

For nearly a year, the events of that evening remained a well-kept secret until the woman’s allegations burst into the open, roiling the university and threatening a prized asset: Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football.

Three weeks after Mr. Winston was publicly identified as the suspect, the storm had passed. The local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship.

In fact, an examination by The New York Times has found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.

The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.

The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act.

“They just missed all the basic fundamental stuff that you are supposed to do,” Mr. Meggs said in a recent interview. Even so, he cautioned, a better investigation might have yielded the same result.

University administrators, in apparent violation of federal law, did not promptly investigate either the rape accusation or the witness’s admission that he had videotaped part of the encounter.

Records show that Florida State’s athletic department knew about the rape accusation early on, in January 2013, when the assistant athletic director called the police to inquire about the case. Even so, the university did nothing about it, allowing Mr. Winston to play the full season without having to answer any questions. After the championship game, in January 2014, university officials asked Mr. Winston to discuss the case, but he declined on advice of his lawyer.

Late last year, Mr. Winston’s accuser and another Florida State student filed internal-affairs complaints, charging that Tallahassee police officers had investigated them, rather than the accused, and then prematurely dropped their cases.

“My attorney’s repeated calls to Tallahassee Police Department prove that I had not dropped the case,” Mr. Winston’s accuser wrote in her Dec. 19 complaint.

Two days earlier, the other student had written, “Why did the detective insist my case was closed and refused to answer calls and emails?” She added, “I am SO ANGRY!”

There are more details in the article about the exact time line of the investigations and the mistakes that were made, far too many to quote here - failure to identify the suspect until a month in (when the accuser recognized him on campus), failure to view surveillance video, failure to pursue witnesses and obtain a video recording of the alleged rape, contacting the suspect by phone, failure to call the cab company, ending the investigation without discussing it with the complainant and then blaming her for the fact - a complete failure of the investigating officers to do their jobs.

As for the university:

If cases are reported, the university is obligated to investigate, regardless of what the police do. According to the federal Education Department’s civil rights office, “a school that knows, or reasonably should know” about sexual harassment, including rape, “must promptly investigate to determine what occurred and then take appropriate steps to resolve the situation.”

Universities must also inform the federal government of reported sexual assaults on their property or in the immediate vicinity.

[...]

A decade before the Winston case, the inspector general found that Florida State had violated its policy when the athletic department failed to inform the campus police of a rape accusation against one of its standout football players. Mr. Ruiz, the former prosecutor who handled the case for the state attorney’s office, recalled that the coach at the time, the revered Bobby Bowden, attempted to convince him that a crime had not occurred. A jury eventually acquitted the player.

“I learned quickly what football meant in the South,” said Mr. Ruiz, who grew up in New York State. “Clearly, it meant a lot. And with respect to this case I learned that keeping players on the field was a priority.”

I think it's important to remember that there is actually nothing exceptional about this case. Jessica Luther wrote an excellent piece last December that puts all this in broader perspective:

When Meggs told reporters on Thursday that he would “leave that to you all after you review the facts,” those facts are a 248-page report compiled by his office from a variety of sources, including reports by the investigator in charge of the woman’s case, the results of her rape kit, witness reports, and copies of texts and tweets written by the victim around the time of the alleged rape. Yet, after reading the “facts,” it is clear that nothing about this case is clear:

  • His witnesses directly contradict her account but their statements were taken almost a year after the fact; her account was taken the very day of the alleged crime.
  • Her description of the events that night, while full of holes due to problems with her memory (a toxicology screen ruled out the possibility of her being drugged), has been consistent for over a year. Details from that night (what the apartment looked like, the name of Winston’s roommate, that he drove a scooter, the places in the apartment where Winston had sex with her) all match up with what investigators uncovered.
  • Winston’s DNA was found on her underwear and on her body. On her pink pants, there was also the DNA of another man, one she says she had consensual sex with sometime prior to the events of that night. Meggs specifically mentioned the presence of another man’s DNA as a complicating factor.
  • When she showed up to the hospital that night, there was blood on her pink pants and bruises on her body.
  • Police failure to investigate the crime when it was initially reported meant that potential witnesses were lost and video footage from the bar where they met had long ago been erased. Meggs did say that “it would have been somewhat better if we had gotten into this case a little bit earlier.”
  • The police say they closed the case because they never heard back from her about moving forward. They informed Winston’s lawyer of this fact in February. Her lawyer states that it was the police who stopped contacting them.

What can we takeaway from this then?

Is this another example of the lionizing of football players getting in the way of a police investigation? Is this just what happens when the lucrative and popular sport of football intersects with the damaging and victim-blaming rape culture that surround us? Or is it a product of a culture on college campuses today? Or both at once?

What role does the race of the accuser (a white woman) and that of Winston (a Black man) play in all of this? Does the media share blame in the outcome?

Can any of this be singled out? Should we only talk about one piece of this complicated pie? But is it even possible to talk about all of this at once?

The ambiguous outcome of this case is a product of a society that privileges a certain kind of masculinity, that funnels money into sports and players, that blames victims of sexual assault for their attack but sees Black men as a danger to white women, that knows that college campuses foster an atmosphere that protects rapists but does little to eradicate that, and that has a media that enjoys a frenzy and a scandal more than it will ever care about justice.

On top of all of this, we live in a society that does not invest in teaching what consent actually is. During the infamous Steubenville trial, one of the teenage witnesses to the crime, when asked why he didn’t intervene, said, “It wasn’t violent. I didn’t know what rape was. I pictured it as forcing yourself on someone.” While this appears to be the words of someone who is trying to explain away a terrible decision he made, it may, in part, also be true. The FBI’s own definition of rape was woefully lacking less than two years ago. And the mantra of “no means no” places the burden of stopping a rape on the ability of a rape victim to vocalize (and prove they vocalized) that they do not consent. Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman have explained how this “no means no” mindset fails:

But in a culture that insists women prove they didn’t want to have sex, anything becomes “yes.” A passcode. The fact that the young woman got into a car with a group of boys willingly. Even the victim’s silence becomes a “yes.”​

The woman in the Jameis Winston case told police that she did try to tell him that she did not consent to what was happening but also that she felt ill and was having trouble talking. Maybe she never actually got out the word “no” or “stop.” But that shouldn’t matter at all. If we taught enthusiastic consent as the only acceptable indicator of someone’s desire to have sex, then there would be far fewer questions about what happened. “Did you ask her if she wanted to have sex with you and did she say ‘yes’?” That is a whole other world from “Did she ever say ‘no’ or fight back?” If I could choose which world to live in, I’d choose the former.

I don’t live in that world, though, and so here is the hardest part of all of this for me: Winston may truly believe he did nothing wrong and that he had consensual sex with this woman and she may truly believe that he raped her. And so, there is no end here for either Winston or the woman. There is no tidy wrap up or conclusive report. The case is now a statistic in a sea of such statistics, another example that our justice system and society at large are ill-equipped to handle sexual assault cases and the damage they do to everyone involved.
 

genjiZERO

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I'm not surprised it was at Potbelly's. That's place is bar none the worst, most depraved place I have ever seen. It's a scourge, and if I'm ever rich enough, I am going to buy it, burn it to the ground and replace it with nothing.

I'm also not surprised FSU or Tallahassee police didn't do anything about it. Football is sacrosanct there, and to a perverse degree. I thought there was something a little disturbing about football culture there.
 

Delta Assault

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So what I think happened here is:



You yell barracuda, everybody says, "Huh? What?" You yell rape, we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.
 

User 100115

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Mar 8, 2012
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How horrible. :(

I don't have enough time to read the whole thing right now, but it really sounds like the investigation was totally botched. Which sadly isn't surprising considering the recent trend of rape investigations and sports.

I'll comment better later this evening. Thanks for the article Mumei.
 

Ninja Scooter

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After the Paterno thing I don't think any sort of cover up in the name of something as stupid and unimportant as a college sports will surprise me anymore.
 

Paskil

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Regardless of whether the charges were legit or not, from the facts presented, this was an intentionally bungled investigation and heads should roll at the PD/DA and at FSU.
 

Mumei

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i might have missed it when reading it, but is there an official definition of 'rape'?

Well, I don't know what you mean when you say "official." If you want to know how the state of Florida defines sexual battery, you can read Florida's statutory code. Table of Contents for that chapter:

794.005 Legislative findings and intent as to basic charge of sexual battery.
794.011 Sexual battery.
794.0115 Dangerous sexual felony offender; mandatory sentencing.
794.02 Common-law presumption relating to age abolished.
794.021 Ignorance or belief as to victim’s age no defense.
794.022 Rules of evidence.
794.023 Sexual battery by multiple perpetrators; reclassification of offenses.
794.0235 Administration of medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) to persons convicted of sexual battery.
794.024 Unlawful to disclose identifying information.
794.026 Civil right of action for communicating the identity of a sexual crime victim.
794.027 Duty to report sexual battery; penalties.
794.03 Unlawful to publish or broadcast information identifying sexual offense victim.
794.05 Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors.
794.052 Sexual battery; notification of victim’s rights and services.
794.055 Access to services for victims of sexual battery.
794.056 Rape Crisis Program Trust Fund.
794.075 Sexual predators; erectile dysfunction drugs.
794.08 Female genital mutilation.
794.09 Forfeiture of retirement benefits.

If you want a more succinct definition, the FBI currently defines rape as, "The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim."
 

entremet

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Another reason why sports worship is problematic in higher education. These sports programs have too much leverage.
 

NetMapel

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I really wonder. How can American football be so important in the "south" ? I mean, Canada loves hockey, Europe loves football... does this kind of thing also happen to young star players there ? I don't think I've ever heard of young star hockey players being systematically protected in a crime case. If Sidney Crosby committed a crime when he was young, I doubt the police here would be protecting him. I really don't understand those American football star mentality that are systematically protected from school to the law enforcement.
 

commedieu

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Jan 10, 2009
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Regardless of whether the charges were legit or not, from the facts presented, this was an intentionally bungled investigation and heads should roll at the PD/DA and at FSU.

All you need to really read is that they didn't even try to DNA test the semen.

Disgusting people, all around. And I'm getting really sick of saying that the system is broken every day, in every facet of it. Business interests are and have been trumping human rights/legal rights/citizen rights. What else can we say in this thread.. I mean really. Because there's probably thousands of stories just like this one. The contrarians will show up, and the cycle continues until the next one.

There is no reason to care for people outside of their money.
 

Orayn

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I really wonder. How can American football be so important in the "south" ? I mean, Canada loves hockey, Europe loves football... does this kind of thing also happen to young star players there ? I don't think I've ever heard of young star hockey players being systematically protected in a crime case. If Sidney Crosby committed a crime when he was young, I doubt the police here would be protecting him. I really don't understand those American football star mentality that are systematically protected from school to the law enforcement.

I think some groups within our culture idolize star players in a particularly unhealthy way. The family, school, and community aren't just proud of them, they insist on them being blameless and are willing to do some pretty terrible things to make sure they can keep playing and maintain that image. Obviously it's not the same everywhere, but when it's bad, it can be REALLY bad.

As someone else said, it kinda verges on organized crime in some cases.
 
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Sounds like she may have been drunk and feel she had been taken advantage of. She didn't and couldn't say no, and physically, she couldn't resist him.
 

Intheflorsh

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I know the circumstances around the rape are ambiguous, but the university had a responsibility to investigate and clearly did not even take the basic steps.

Edit: Misread a section...
 

Ninja Scooter

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I really wonder. How can American football be so important in the "south" ? I mean, Canada loves hockey, Europe loves football... does this kind of thing also happen to young star players there ? I don't think I've ever heard of young star hockey players being systematically protected in a crime case. If Sidney Crosby committed a crime when he was young, I doubt the police here would be protecting him. I really don't understand those American football star mentality that are systematically protected from school to the law enforcement.

Part of it is that in a lot of these smaller areas college football is all they got and they are incredibly protective of it. In a lot of these places you cannot cover the team or work in the media unless you are a complete homer. That leads to a lot less incentive for journalists to expose this kind of wrong doing.

The other is money. College football is billion dollar business. Make no mistake, D1 football is a professional league in every sense other than the fact that they someone get away with not paying their employees because they still have the wool pulled over enough peoples eyes.
 

Hasphat'sAnts

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I really wonder. How can American football be so important in the "south" ? I mean, Canada loves hockey, Europe loves football... does this kind of thing also happen to young star players there ? I don't think I've ever heard of young star hockey players being systematically protected in a crime case. If Sidney Crosby committed a crime when he was young, I doubt the police here would be protecting him. I really don't understand those American football star mentality that are systematically protected from school to the law enforcement.

There's also a weird Southern Exceptionalism complex going on here. The fact that thier college football teams dominate the rest of the country who deems them backwards is immensely satisfying and identity affirming.
 

entremet

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I think some groups within our culture idolize star players in a particularly unhealthy way. The family, school, and community aren't just proud of them, they insist on them being blameless and are willing to do some pretty terrible things to make sure they can keep playing and maintain that image. Obviously it's not the same everywhere, but when it's bad, it can be REALLY bad.

As someone else said, it kinda verges on organized crime in some cases.

As long as the players are contributing to Ws, yes. This quarterback is very talented and making sure he's protected is a big priority.

Not to defend, just to explain football culture in these big schools.
 

pxleyes

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This has been talked about quite a bit in the college football thread. Suffice to say, I believe he is guilty as the day is long. Nothing but disdain for the Tallahassee PD after what was clearly negligence on their part, willful at that. I'm sure an FSU fan will call me biased, but I cant imagine rooting for him if he were a Gator. Sickening that he is still looked up to by the sports media and FSU, but if all they have to do is look the other way, they will.
 

NetMapel

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Yeah I know some of those are small towns so football provides a lot of entertainment. However, there is something about systematically protecting a young player that really frightens me. Here in Canada, Sidney Crosby was a huge deal growing up in Nova Scotia. It's "small town" off the east coast of Canada as well and he was identified to be a super star hockey player as young as 13. I doubt he'd be systematically protected by all those institutions around him if he was even accused of committing a terrible crime.

What about Messi, what about other big name football stars around the world ? I have never heard of such institutional level of protection of young up-and-coming athletes. This mentality is frightening for me and this isn't the first time I hear stories like this from the "south". What are they smoking over there ?
 

andycapps

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There's also a weird Southern Exceptionalism complex going on here. The fact that thier college football teams dominate the rest of the country who deems them backwards is immensely satisfying and identity affirming.

What a shitty thing to say.

I've already said my piece in the CFB thread, but I think this is horrible. There needs to be an investigation by an outside entity into how rape allegations are handled in the FSU administration, and a separate investigation into the investigation process by the Tallahassee PD.
 

Tamanon

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Jun 10, 2004
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There's also a weird Southern Exceptionalism complex going on here. The fact that thier college football teams dominate the rest of the country who deems them backwards is immensely satisfying and identity affirming.

Incorrect.

It's about power, these athletes are afforded the protection that normally only the rich get. It's disgusting, but nothing to do with the South.
 

DominoKid

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Yeah I know some of those are small towns so football provides a lot of entertainment. However, there is something about systematically protecting a young player that really frightens me. Here in Canada, Sidney Crosby was a huge deal growing up in Nova Scotia. It's "small town" off the east coast of Canada as well and he was identified to be a super star hockey player as young as 13. I doubt he'd be systematically protected by all those institutions around him if he was even accused of committing a terrible crime.

What about Messi, what about other big name football stars around the world ? I have never heard of such institutional level of protection of young up-and-coming athletes. This mentality is frightening for me and this isn't the first time I hear stories like this from the "south". What are they smoking over there ?

well that's the idea of a cover-up.

this aint a football thing. or a southern thing. this shit happens every day to benefit the "valuable" people of society.
 

ThatGuyAgain

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The obvious and blatant corruption in the TPD and FSU is hopefully unsustainable.

I feel very bad for the girl (and other girls that were victims). Not only do they have to live with being raped, but some of them have their names and reputation drug through mud. All of this to protect the rapist... not for any reason other than money and school reputation. Disgusting and sad.
 

timetokill

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Oct 19, 2004
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There's also a weird Southern Exceptionalism complex going on here. The fact that thier college football teams dominate the rest of the country who deems them backwards is immensely satisfying and identity affirming.

Is this from personal experience, or do you have some sort of citation so I can read more about this?
 

Benutzer

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holy shit @ the part where a video of the sexual encounter exists and nobody followed it! and now the evidence has "disappeared".
 

hokahey

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So now we're down to "enthusiastic consent" being the only acceptable consent that's not rape? I've said on here before that I've had women get on me when i was too drunk to say no, so by definition have been raped. But by the "enthusiastic consent" definition I've been raped a LOT.
 

riotous

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I watched this happening in high school with some of my peers.

Not rape, but just getting away with crime in general.

- Group of football players caught drinking in the parking lot of our school shortly after hours... happened to have one girl with them... cops told the players to leave, girl ended up arrested.. she was even the boyfriend of one of the players but he ditched her there, she broke up with him

- Had a friend pulled over wasted, with a giant bong in his front seat. Cop noticed him name, he was THE star on the local HS team and he was not only not arrested, the cop followed him to the party he was going to to make sure he got there safe, then told him he'd make sure the party wouldn't get broken up as long as they didn't get too loud. This was in ~1995, a bong in a car would normally get you tossed in jail at that time.

- Inside the actual school it was ridiculous.. they could skip class, park in the teachers spots (which were much more convenient), get in fights and be let go.. and lots of stories of drinking with the coaches.. that goes for the baseball team as well.. the football team was also being sold steroids by one of the coaches.

It also happens at small colleges not even in Division I. My same friend with the bong, who was at least good enough to play for a national championship Div III team graduated with honors without having to complete any of his finals as he was travelling for said National Championship game (he was a 4.5 year graduate, normal for freshmen to red shirt then schedule college around an extra semester or 2.) He also had other people doing a lot of his school work, which would have been very obvious to any professor paying attention.
 

Mumei

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I think it's important to remember that while football was almost surely part of the problem, it is still only part. And this sort of mishandling by universities and police is widespread. This isn't just a FSU problem.

Just look at Occidental, for instance. Or Dartmouth. Or the University of Missouri. Or Penn State. Or the University of Michigan. Or Harvard. Or the University of North Carolina. Or Boise State.

Pick a university; there's a good chance they handle these cases poorly, and particularly badly when it involves athletes.
 

royalan

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So now we're down to "enthusiastic consent" being the only acceptable consent that's not rape? I've said on here before that I've had women get on me when i was too drunk to say no, so by definition have been raped. But by the "enthusiastic consent" definition I've been raped a LOT.

I understand your point, and even agree to a certain extent, but I don't think it's applicable here.

Based on her version of events, there's no possible way in hell he could have thought he had consent. I cringed reading that. The man's a fucking predator.
 

Cyan

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Yeah I know some of those are small towns so football provides a lot of entertainment. However, there is something about systematically protecting a young player that really frightens me. Here in Canada, Sidney Crosby was a huge deal growing up in Nova Scotia. It's "small town" off the east coast of Canada as well and he was identified to be a super star hockey player as young as 13. I doubt he'd be systematically protected by all those institutions around him if he was even accused of committing a terrible crime.

What about Messi, what about other big name football stars around the world ? I have never heard of such institutional level of protection of young up-and-coming athletes.
Mmm. I think this is a little naive. Big athletes are big money. That's where the institutional protection comes in. What amplifies it and makes it even worse is when the fans are rabid enough to join in on the protection. From what I've seen of hockey and soccer fans, they're no less zealous in their fandom than American football fans.

This mentality is frightening for me and this isn't the first time I hear stories like this from the "south". What are they smoking over there ?
Other examples that spring immediately to mind: Jerramy Stevens at UW, Sandusky at Penn St. Neither of those places are part of the American South. This is a money and fandom issue, not a southern cultural issue.
 

xbhaskarx

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holy shit @ the part where a video of the sexual encounter exists and nobody followed it! and now the evidence has "disappeared".

Just like how the security footage from the nightclub where Ben Roethlisberger raped that drunk girl was recorded over...

Or maybe this is more similar to Jerramy Stevens in Seattle: Convicted of assault and accused of rape, star player received raft of second chances

It's no longer surprising how schools with big football programs treat rape victims...

Really there are so many football players raping women that it's difficult to think of the most similar case.... hell there's the mysterious incident involving Colin Kaepernick and two other football players from just last week.
 
Aug 10, 2005
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Not that this would fix this particular problem (perhaps the coverup), but the NFL needs to stop sucking the NCAA teet and create a development league.
 

Link

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Jun 6, 2004
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How horrible. :(

I don't have enough time to read the whole thing right now, but it really sounds like the investigation was totally botched. Which sadly isn't surprising considering the recent trend of rape investigations and sports.

I'll comment better later this evening. Thanks for the article Mumei.
"Botched" implies careless mishandling and/or oversight. No, this was apathy of justice and protecting one's own interests. I only wish I could say I was surprised.
 

psylah

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How do we go from Brian Banks being thrown in jail based on false accusation and no evidence, to a mountain of evidence and not even a proper investigation?
 

andymcc

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Other examples that spring immediately to mind: Jerramy Stevens at UW, Sandusky at Penn St. Neither of those places are part of the American South. This is a money and fandom issue, not a southern cultural issue.

Stuebenville isn't the south nor was it involving collegiate level athletes and look at how far the community went to protect them. I think that further supports the idea that any member of an institutional sport is going to receive protection, regardless of the sport, location or level of athleticism.
 

riotous

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How do we go from Brian Banks being thrown in jail based on false accusation and no evidence, to a mountain of evidence and not even a proper investigation?

He wasn't a college football star.

High school football stars protection is of a smaller scope. Particularly in large cities. Long Beach itself has 500k people, let alone it being part of LA County. The police involved likely had no clue who he was.

Go to a small town and you might get a different story for the HS football player.
 

riotous

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I think that further supports the idea that any member of an institutional sport is going to receive protection, regardless of the sport, location or level of athleticism.

I think this is pretty far off. Younger kids from much larger cities aren't going to be known by the police. Your average high school football coach in a large county has no pull with the cops either.

Race and who the accuser is could be a factor as well.

College is also different than high school for these athletes. They generally have their own police forces and essentially the campus and the surrounding businesses/bars are their own small cities police jurisdiction wise. Small town high school kid gets the royalty treatment, but big city HS kid not necessarily.
 

psylah

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He wasn't a college football star.

High school football stars protection is of a smaller scope. Particularly in large cities. Long Beach itself has 500k people, let alone it being part of LA County. The police involved likely had no clue who he was.

Go to a small town and you might get a different story for the HS football player.

What about the Steubenville rape case? The entire town ran the girl and her family out of town in support of the football players that raped her.
 

Hasphat'sAnts

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Jul 16, 2008
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What a shitty thing to say.

I've already said my piece in the CFB thread, but I think this is horrible. There needs to be an investigation by an outside entity into how rape allegations are handled in the FSU administration, and a separate investigation into the investigation process by the Tallahassee PD.

I grew up in GA and went to school in NC. My experiences tell me that antebellum south is now an important reference point for modern southern identity now that the south is once again fast growing and prosperous.

EDIT: As to sports stars getting a pass from law enforcement, that happens everywhere and not just the South. That's not what I'm trying to say.

Somebody asked why the South takes its football more seriously than most places and I offered my take.
 
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