FSU's Winston cleared of sexual assault

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Tallahassee, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has been cleared of allegations he sexually assaulted a woman last year.

State Attorney Willie Meggs made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

"We carefully examined the evidence in this case and determined no one will be charged," Meggs said.

Winston, 19, is expected to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy after setting ACC freshman records for passing yards and touchdowns while leading the Seminoles to a 12-0 record, a No. 1 ranking in the BCS standings and within a win of playing for the national championship.

In a statement, Winston thanked the state attorney's office "for examining all of the facts and reaching a decision in a conclusive manner."

"It's been difficult to stay silent through this process, but I never lost faith in the truth and in who I am," said Winston. "I'm very relieved I'll be able to continue my education at Florida State and I'm excited I can now get back to helping our team achieve its goals."

Winston's attorney, Tim Jansen, maintained the quarterback's innocence Thursday and has said Winston and the accuser had consensual sex. The accuser's attorney said her client worries the way the case was handled in the media "will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting."

One of the issues which determined why prosecutors didn't press charges was that DNA of a second, unknown male was found on the accuser's clothes. Meggs said it is hard to prosecute when there is an unknown DNA sample involved.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he was "pleased to hear" Winston was exonerated and Seminoles athletic director Stan Wilcox said the quarterback's status as a student-athlete "remains unchanged."

"We have been respectful, impartial, and fully cooperative in the legal process that has now run its course," said Wilcox.

Reports initially surfaced in November that Winston was under investigation for an alleged sexual assault in a Tallahassee apartment in December of 2012. Prosecutors weren't made aware of the investigation for 11 months.

Earlier on Thursday, search warrants were released that revealed the alleged victim and her friends had shots at a bar and her "memory is very broken from that point forward." She recalled being in a cab with a man and going into an apartment before she was raped, the suspect dressed her and put her on a scooter, dropping her off at an intersection.

The accuser's family has been critical of the way Tallahassee handled the investigation. The case was placed on inactive status in February after police said the alleged victim didn't wish to prosecute. The accuser's attorney, Patricia Carroll, denies that allegation.

Carroll released this statement: "The victim and her family appreciate the State Attorney's efforts in attempting to conduct a proper investigation after an inordinate delay by the Tallahassee Police Department.

"The victim in this case had the courage to immediately report her rape to the police and she relied upon them to seek justice. The victim has grave concerns that her experience, as it unfolded in the public eye and through social media, will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting."

On how the Tallahassee police dealt with the accusations, Meggs said: "It would be better if they handled it a little different. Hindsight is 20-20."

Winston has passed for 3,490 yards and 35 touchdowns this season and will lead the Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game against Duke on Saturday night. A win would likely secure a berth in the BCS championship game.

Meggs said the investigation wasn't affected by football.

"Our timing has not been dictated by any Heisman or football demands," said Meggs. "We need to handle each case equally and fairly and we did so in this case."

Fisher said the Florida State community is "blessed to have really good people in place to review matters like this."

"I know Jameis is pleased he can focus on being a student at a great university and he's excited about helping our team achieve its goals this year," Fisher said in a statement. "Right now, we're all looking forward to what we have in front of us on Saturday."