There couldn’t be official charges, couldn’t be an arrest, couldn’t be a trial, couldn’t be any resolution to the Jameis Winston sexual assault investigation other than what was decided Thursday.
As the state attorney of Florida, Willie Meggs owned just one viable option in a case that the tag team of Perry Mason and Atticus Finch couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt against the Florida State star quarterback.
Such cases can be difficult enough to produce a guilty verdict, but when the accuser has major lapses of memory, lacks the level of intoxication she was presumed to have had from her accounts of the evening and there is the presence of DNA from two males in the woman’s rape kit, well, no prosecutor worth his three-piece suit will present such facts to a jury.
It doesn’t mean something illegal didn’t occur.
It only means the chances of conviction rest around those of Duke as a four-touchdown underdog beating the Seminoles in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship on Saturday.
Check that. Duke has a far better chance than a jury would voting to convict.
Meggs, then, did his job in deciding not to charge the leading Heisman Trophy candidate.
The way in which we learned of it, however, and the response of others from it sent a disgusting, embarrassing message to any woman faced with the emotional and often frightening reality of pursuing such accusations.
Yes, it was beyond even the level of shame we expect to slither out of Florida.
Everyone, though, made certain to receive their 15 minutes.
Meggs as an inappropriate Forrest Gump. A former state senator in Alfred Lawson, whose Twitter page offered links (before being deleted late Thursday) to strippers fighting and women engaging in sex acts in parking lots, along with pictures of Doak Walker Stadium with the hashtag, “GoNoles.”
Tim Jansen, attorney for Winston, nearly talked all the way through Saturday’s game. Students from Florida State ran to the courthouse with JAMEIS spelled out on their chests. Others stood behind Jansen laughing and holding up the “No. 1” sign and wearing their hats and pink sunglasses backward. Another yelled out “Gang Rape!” when Jansen was asked what he thought happened between the accuser and Winston.
One reporter asked if the accuser’s family had any connections to the University of Alabama.
Really. That happened.
This was Florida buffoonery to levels so far beyond hanging chads, it’s impossible to completely comprehend.
There was laughing. Jokes. Broad smiles all around.
All while discussing something as serious as alleged sexual assault.
It was deplorable on so many levels, a gathering of ignorant, publicity-craving fools who in a matter of minutes might have instilled even more fear into the minds of countless women with valid claims ever to come forward with such allegations.
Women in Florida watching had to be thinking: These are the individuals responsible for assuring a fair and impartial investigation should I ever be assaulted, Forrest Gump and Big Al Lawson and his fondness for “Big Booty Strippers”?
I don’t condone how the students and their Zoolander antics acted in celebrating the news, but by definition, 18- to 21-year-olds in college almost always will play the part of idiots in such times. They care only about a football team remaining unbeaten and its quarterback winning a bronzed statue.
I also wasn’t surprised at Jansen and his grandstanding performance. He’s a defense attorney with a high-profile client, and TV cameras were involved. It’s expected he will be a pompous windbag at such moments.
But the casual and failed attempt at humor Meggs took in answering questions about his decision not to charge Winston was a disgrace to the process and those in his position across the country who actually conduct such investigations with honor and integrity and a determined thirst to discover the truth.
Meggs looked more like Vinny Gambini, celebrating the fact he just got his cousin Billy off on a murder charge in rural Alabama and now was looking forward to meeting up with Mona Visa Vito.
I don’t know what happened between Winston and his accuser. You don’t. Only a few people on earth truly do. But I know that if family and friends of the woman were watching, if perhaps her parents and any siblings were listening to Meggs and seeing the laughter and brainless attempts to lighten an extremely serious situation, they had every right to feel angry, bitter, heartbroken.
Perhaps not in the way of being surprised at the decision. Again, there wasn’t a conviction in sight here. Given the facts, Winston shouldn’t have been charged with a thing.
Instead, at the attitude of those entrusted with being fairer, brighter, professional, understanding, compassionate.
Reporter: “Was there a sexual assault?
Meggs: “Well, that’s kind of why we’re here.”
Big Al Lawson laughed.
They’re both Florida State graduates.
Everyone around them laughed.
Embarrassing. Disgusting. Deplorable.
Seriously: What the hell is wrong with these people?
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.