TALLAHASSEE – Scores of Florida State students traded high-fives and danced in restaurant aisles today after learning that prosecutors would not pursue a sexual assault complaint against their football team’s star quarterback, Jameis Winston.
With several large-screen televisions blasting the news inside a large campus cafe, students immediately began doing the Seminole chant and tomahawk chop. The football team is ranked No. 1 in the nation and is playing Duke on Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game. If the Seminoles win, they would play for the national championship next month in Pasadena, Calif. If Winston had been charged, he likely would have been suspended from playing.
“Just hearing this, I’m so grateful,” said Justin Savage, a 21-year-old senior sports management major from Fort Walton Beach. “It was just a bad dream when I first heard about it (possible charges). It’s been a tough couple of weeks.”
Many other students agreed that the weeks since the news broke of the investigation into one of the nation’s most high profile collegiate players and possible Heisman Trophy winner were tough on the campus.
“I feel like there has been a big cloud over us,” said Meghan Munroe, a 26-year-old senior international affairs major from Punta Gorda. “We don’t need that anymore. I’m glad it’s gone. We’re Pasadena bound.”
Kelsey Krieger, a 21-year-old history major from Lake Mary, said she wasn’t surprised by State Attorney Willie Meggs’ decision to not charge Winston. While not fully exonerating Winston, Meggs said he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the quarterback and the woman didn’t have consensual sex last December. The woman, a fellow student who had been drinking at a bar, had gone back to Winston’s apartment when she said he had sex with her over her objections.
“The whole case from the very beginning was very sketchy,” Kreiger said.
Winston had been an apparent front-runner in the annual competition for the Heisman, college football’s highest individual award, until news broke last month that he was named in a sexual assault complaint.
“We always knew that he’s innocent because we know Jameis and we trust our quarterback,” said Katie Gibbs, a 23-year-old senior from Nashville, Tenn., who majors in international affairs. “I’ve seen him on campus. He’s an awesome guy, well-rounded. He’d never need to do anything like that.”
Away from campus, folks who had been following the story were also happy the issue has been handled.
“I’m glad it’s over,” said Glenn Palmieri, a 54-year-old physical therapist from Tallahassee. “I hope it was a very thorough investigation and that it was truthful what came out.”
Another observer said he hopes justice was served for Winston as well as the young woman who had accused him.
“You want the truth, you want justice, for both of them,” said William Wood, a 72-year-old retired Navy master chief petty officer who learned a law degree after his military career.