Accuser's lawyer prepares for battle

The attorney for the woman who accused Jameis Winston of rape offered serious charges in a news conference Friday, charges that would be key in any second investigation of the incident or civil lawsuit against Winston.

The most serious of the allegations made by attorney Patricia Carroll was based on a medical examination of the accuser at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. The records describe a nurse's finding of a "sexual assault" and "generalized vaginal tears" as well as other injuries showing signs of a struggle.

Although the use of the term "sexual assault" in a written record of a physical examination is based on the accuser's description of what happened and not on a documented finding made in the examination, the discovery of "vaginal tears" and multiple bruises provides significant evidence that is consistent with a violent assault.

Winston's attorney, Tim Jansen, has insisted in numerous media appearances that the sexual episode early Dec. 7, 2012, involving Winston and the accuser was consensual, but the medical records offer powerful contradictory evidence. It is unlikely that an accuser could or would attempt to fake or embellish vaginal tears and bruises on her legs and arms, and the records suggest it would be difficult for any nurse or doctor to suggest that the injuries were from consensual sex.

William Meggs, the state attorney in Tallahassee who decided not to pursue charges against Winston, made a public disclosure of the records of the investigation as required under Florida law. When he did so, though, he provided medical records different from the medical records given to the accuser's family at the hospital, Carroll said.

The records disclosed by Meggs did not include the delivery to the accuser of morning-after medication to prevent pregnancy, various antibiotics to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and a prescription for tranquilizing medication. The records did, however, include the description of the vaginal injuries and the bruises that may have resulted from a struggle.

Meggs' office Friday said nothing Carroll had talked about with the media was new to investigators. But Carroll called on the State Attorney General's Office to take another look at the case.

Attorney General Pam Bondi released a statement Friday afternoon saying allegations against elected officials needed to be directed to the Florida governor's office for review. "Attorney General Bondi has spoken with [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] Commissioner [Gerald] Bailey regarding a possible formal request from the attorney alleging criminal allegations against Tampa Police Department. No formal request has yet been received."

Such a look, Carroll said, should examine the "sloppy" investigation by the Tampa Police Department at the time of the incident and the probe by Meggs nearly a year later.

Carroll cited delays in the submission of blood and urine samples to state laboratories, problems in the preservation of evidence, failures to obtain video from surveillance cameras at the establishment where Winston and the accuser may have met, failures to interview two of Winston's friends who were in the apartment at the time of the incident, and a failure to locate the cab driver who transported Winston, the accuser and two others to Winston's apartment.

Most significant of these various allegations of a failed investigation were Carroll's assertions that the police detectives failed to interview what are known as "outcry" witnesses. An outcry witness is the individual who sees the victim/accuser immediately after the incident and can describe the person's physical and emotional conditions. Was the accuser in a state of shock? Was there evidence of a struggle? Was the accuser calm and happy? Carroll suggested that the police failed to obtain statements from three outcry witnesses the accuser contacted shortly after the episode.

Carroll also described the fears and apprehensions of an accuser that can make sexual assault investigations so difficult for police and prosecutors.

Using excerpts from the 248 pages of investigative records, Carroll showed the accuser's reluctance to call the police and her fears about repercussions. The accuser was concerned that her parents would learn what happened. She was worried that she would be accused of underage drinking. And she was concerned about the gaps in her memory and thought they might be the result of a drug in one of her drinks.

It is clear from the detailed analysis that Carroll has done of the records of the investigation that there is more to come. There might not be another criminal investigation, but it seems likely that Carroll will use her analysis of the investigation as a basis for a civil damages case against Winston. There is no hurry. Carroll and the accuser have at least a year to file a lawsuit.