As a graduate of Florida State University and a die hard fan in every sense of the word, it is not surprising that I immediately took notice of the New York Times article that was released today regarding the mishandling of the Jameis Winston case. While many FSU faithful would say “Don’t give the New York Times the satisfaction of reading this article”, I completely disagree. I think all FSU fans should thoroughly read this piece and all the comments associated with it.
I made an effort to review this piece in a way that separated my obvious bias towards FSU given that I am an alumni. However, seeing as I have followed this case so intently all the way through and have read Megg’s entire report, I feel that my perception of this article is quite different from a casual New York Times reader.
While this article surely does raise some solid points regarding the mishandling of sexual assault cases at Florida State and throughout our society, it is very clear to me that this a crafty piece of work by a journalist with an agenda.
For those of us who have truly followed this case, it is easy to see that this article covers a very targeted and select number of aspects of this case and arranges them in a way that is meant to paint a picture of Jameis Winston as GUILTY beyond the shadow of a doubt. The author makes no effort to place any shred of credibility on the side of the accused, and edits the material that composes the article in such a way that makes it seem as if the alleged victim could not have possibly have falsely accused Winston.
Some examples of this targeted editing are as follows:
1) Near the beginning of the article, the author clearly insinuates that the alleged victim was roofied at Potbelly’s, stating “The woman did not appear drunk, her friends said. But after a stranger gave her a drink, she recounted, her memory became hazy and fragmented. Soon, she found herself in a taxi with three unfamiliar men, all of whom turned out to be Florida State football players.” What the article fails to mention is the toxicology report that was done on the alleged victim. Per an article from the Orlando Sentinel from December 6, 2013, “A toxicology test based on samples taken shortly after the woman reported the incident showed she was not intoxicated or under the influence of any drugs.” You would think that in such a thorough journalistic effort would at least point to these results if they are going to make such a bold inference as the use of a date rape drug.
2) The article fails to mention, even once, the inconsistencies in alleged victim’s account of the event and the actions of her legal team in the aftermath. There are many that can be highlighted, but these are a few of the most glaring:
- The accuser, in the original police report, identified the victim as being between the heights of 5 foot 9 inches and 6 foot 2 inches. This is clearly indicative of a person of average stature. Jameis Winston is 6 foot 4 inches.
- The accuser originally claimed that she sent a text message to a friend about being in a taxi with someone she didn’t know. Cell phone records show that no text message of this sort was ever sent. The only text messages found to that friend from that night are ones asking about a missing ID (which is the only text the article mentions) and a later text about being at home.
- The attorney of the accuser continually stated they wanted this case to stay out of the spotlight and away from media attention, yet continued to fuel the media fired by constantly releasing statements to the press such as this one, which is contradictory in and of itself:
3) The author very skillfully includes the portions of Chris Casher’s testimony that fit consistently with what the article has said up to that point. You will notice that the recording from Casher’s testimony is edited and cuts off before expressing the many quotes from him that indicate his staunch belief that the sexual event was consensual. If you would like to hear the entirety of the interview with Casher, you will see it paints a very different picture from the edited snippet included in the article. The article very rarely references this belief by both witnesses that the act was consensual.
4) The article clearly refers to the friends that the alleged victim was with that night at Potbelly’s, Monique Kessler and Marcus Jordan, but fails to mention that both Monique and Marcus confirmed that the accuser showed no signs of intoxication whatsoever. The article also peculiarly forgets to include the fact that Monique Kessler willingly stated that she believed the alleged victim left the bar willingly with Winston, and even saw a text message exchange between them, “I know for a fact that I saw a text message on her phone that said ‘Meet me outside,’”.
5) The article paints Winston to be a major star and a media tour de force, which of course he is now, but fails to acknowledge the fact that Winston, while noted by intense recruitniks, was a virtual unknown to the rest of campus at the time of this incident. The only mention that the article makes of Winston’s nobody status at the time is to bury this in the middle of a passage about Potbelly’s: “A redshirt freshman quarterback, 6 feet 4 inches and 235 pounds, Mr. Winston had been a prize recruit, well-known in football circles but not yet a widely recognizable name.” The rest of the article refers to Winston as if he had always been a star on campus and that the mishandling of the case was driven by the desire to keep the best player on the football team safe. In reality, Jameis Winston meant nothing to FSU football at the time of this incident. In fact, at the time, many believed that Clint Tricket (now the starting QB for West Virginia) or Jacob Coker (the projected starter for Alabama next year) would be the starting quarterback in 2013 because Winston was devoting so much of his spring to baseball. What motivation would the police force have for covering up a case to protect a young athlete who could potentially be the third string QB on the football team and was an every other day player on the baseball team? This is a question that the article never brings to light.
6) The article fails to delve into the curious timing of the breaking of this case. It is true that the the case was not truly investigated for a full year after it occurred, which is clearly a major error. What this article does not explore is why the investigation was opened up again. Matt Baker, a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times obtained a leaked report of the incident on November 6, 2013. At this point, FSU had just come off of a major win against rival Miami. The team was 8-0, and with few challenging opponents left on the schedule, looked more than poised to make a national title run. Jameis Winston had also become the far and away favorite for the Heisman trophy. Why did Baker decide to request this information exactly at this point? Is it not reasonable to wonder if the motivation to do so lay in FSU and their star QB’s rise to the top? This is a question that is worth exploring, but of course this investigative piece chose to ignore it entirely.
Many will take this article to be law rather than certain facts arranged in a manner expresses the author’s opinion. Few will acknowledge that the New York Times could be at fault with parts of this article, they will only point to FSU being inadequate and Jameis Winston being evil. One thing is fore sure, the casual NYT reader will not take the time to read this statement that was released by FSU in response to the article.
In a time when the media fuels general consensus, a major outlet has once again keeled to the temptation to tell only the story that they believe will be the most sensational and noteworthy. The truth is that we will never truly know if Jameis Winston raped that girl that night. Having met Winston on several occasions, I truly do not believe he would be capable of such an act. He has been a kind and well mannered member of the FSU student body every time I have encountered him. But my opinion does not matter. Just like the opinion of the New York Times, driven by their desire to put forth a blockbuster story, does not. In this great country, the law is that You Are Innocent Until Proven Guilty. It seems that the New York Times would prescribe to a different notion, Guilty Until Proven Innocent.
While I do see the benefit in bringing the mishandling of sexual assault cases to the forefront, there is no need to do so in a manner that aims to taint the legacy of an outstanding student, athlete, and member of the Florida State community such as Winston, who by all legal and technical means is an innocent man. It is also not fair to the alleged victim to bring this story back to the front pages. It will only bring both of them further scrutiny and unfair turmoil. The New York Times taking aim at FSU is understandable, but writing the article in a way that clearly seeks to bring the events of that night back into question is a move that could ruin two young adults lives. There is simply not enough evidence to make a conclusion on this case. That is never going to change. So why continue to stoke the fire at the expense of two young people? It is a despicable decision that is entirely indicative of the state of the media today. It should be clear to all of us by now that The New York Times will tell any story that will gain them readers, without taking as much as a moment to consider those who will be affected by its publishing. That, in my opinion, is shameful.