Winston lawyer wants decision soon
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The lawyer for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston met with the state attorney Wednesday, hoping to expedite the two-week timetable for a decision on whether charges would come from an investigation into accusations that the Heisman Trophy candidate sexually assaulted a woman.
Attorney Timothy Jansen said he was alarmed by the expected delay by William Meggs' office and the impact the ongoing probe could have on Winston's Heisman candidacy and the unbeaten Seminoles' quest for a berth in the BCS title game.
A Chilling Effect
The alleged actions -- or inaction -- of the Tallahassee police could send the message to those with sexual assault complaints that they are better off staying silent, Jemele Hill writes. Story
"We expressed our concerns that the delay would affect Mr. Winston's reputation, voters in the Heisman and Florida State's ability to go to the national championship game," Jansen said Wednesday. "We're hoping this cloud can be lifted sooner rather than later."
Meggs' office said Tuesday that it would be at least two weeks before it decides whether to bring charges, which would put any potential finality to the investigation beyond the deadline for voters for the Heisman and final BCS polls.
The deadline to vote for the Heisman is Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. ET, with the award's presentation on Dec. 14 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). Florida State will play in the ACC championship game on Dec. 7, and the BCS bowl matchups will be finalized the next day.
Florida State has not allowed Winston or coach Jimbo Fisher to comment on the investigation, but Fisher mentioned the situation for the first time after Wednesday's practice.
"We'll just let the facts come out, I don't want to comment on too much," Fisher said Wednesday, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "Let's just wait and see how things turn out."
Jansen wouldn't discuss details of his meeting with Meggs, but he said he believed there was a possibility Meggs' office could make a decision ahead of the timetable it issued.
"I think everybody wants to get this resolved. Fans, law enforcement, Mr. Meggs. Everybody wants to get this resolved and make a decision and go from there," Jansen said.
Winston is the front-runner in the Heisman race, at least statistically, but the potential of criminal charges being brought against him for his role in an alleged assault that occurred nearly a year ago could be enough to sway voters to other candidates.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that it emailed 92 media members who cover college football, including all 60 of its Top 25 poll voters, this question Wednesday:
"If there is no resolution in the criminal investigation involving Jameis Winston before the deadline for Heisman Trophy voting, would you drop him from consideration because of the current allegations against him? Yes or no?"
Thirty-three responded in the unscientific survey. Twenty-seven said no -- they would not remove Winston from consideration for college football's most prestigious individual award.
There will be 928 Heisman voters this year. The AP sample represented 3.6 percent of the total.
Four voters said they would drop Winston from consideration even if there was no resolution. Two Heisman voters said they could not make up their minds.
"This is a conundrum as a voter that is a can't-win situation. On one hand, I want to give Winston the benefit of the doubt and if he's the best player in college football, then he should get it," said John Silver of the Journal Inquirer of Connecticut. "But character matters, and imagine the thought of Winston at the Heisman ceremony with a sex charge awaiting him when he gets back to Tallahassee? That's a disaster for the Heisman and college football."
Meanwhile, No. 2 Florida State (11-0) is a heavy favorite in Saturday's regular-season finale against Florida (4-7). The Seminoles hold a relatively sizable lead over No. 3 Ohio State in the BCS standings, but voters in the coaches' and Harris polls could penalize FSU if concerns persist that Winston might be suspended for the championship game. Under FSU rules, any student-athlete charged with a felony is automatically ineligible for competition.
Fisher said Winston knows he'll be a target for Florida fans.
"I think he will, I think he understands that whole circumstances around when you go on the road, when you become the guy and one of the faces of the organization," Fisher said, according to the Sentinel. "People are always going to get on you and do things, that's all part of it."
Jansen said he has worked to keep details of the investigation private, but the delays in a decision on whether Winston will be charged combined with the timing of the Heisman voting and the release of the final BCS standings have created significant problems.
"That is the most difficult thing in this case," Jansen said. "If it was somebody else, and it wasn't the scenario we have with the Heisman Trophy and the national championship -- but that's something I have to consider and something I'm constantly taking into account."
Jansen has said Winston had sex with the accuser but that it was consensual. Beyond that, however, neither Winston nor Florida State officials have spoken publicly about the case.
On Wednesday, Winston said he hoped Heisman voters would consider his success on the field and reward his entire team with the trophy.
"Just look at our success," Winston said. "See the hard work and dedication we've put in, the leadership I've instilled, and that we can keep this process going. ... I'm a team man, and this award is more for my team."
The Heisman trust's nine-member committee would be responsible for determining what would happen if Winston is charged after the voting closes.
"We have a long-standing policy not to comment on hypothetical situations," Heisman Trophy coordinator Tim Henning told ESPN's Brett McMurphy on Wednesday. "Any discussion of a potential revote would have to be made by the Heisman Trophy trust. At the end of the day, the trust makes all decisions to anything pertaining to the Heisman."
There has never been a revote in the history of award, which was first handed out in 1935. Only one winner -- USC's Reggie Bush -- has "forfeited the title" as Heisman winner, Henning said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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