Much still unknown in VU, FSU cases
A rape allegation rocks a major college campus, leaving a pall over a university's football team. Questions are raised about how police and university officials handle the case.
Two scandals with much in common, 500 miles apart, have erupted about two football teams and, on a larger scale, how rape is handled on college campuses. In June, four former Vanderbilt football players were accused of raping an unconscious student on campus. And two weeks ago, the star quarterback at Florida State University was accused — but not formally charged — of sexually battering an intoxicated woman last December.
It's hard to draw too many parallels between the two cases this early on — details about both incidents remain shrouded in secrecy. Here's a brief look at both cases:
What happened in Tallahassee?
On Dec. 7, 2012, a woman filed a sexual battery complaint against star freshman FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, saying he took advantage of her while she was intoxicated. Exactly how the investigation proceeded is a matter of debate. Police claim they shelved the investigation in February after the woman said she no longer wanted to pursue charges — a claim the woman's attorney says is not true. The lawyer said a detective warned her client that Tallahassee is a "big football town" and that her life could be "made miserable" by pursuing the accusation.
Police deemed the case "inactive" until November of this year, when media outlets began digging. At that point, police in Tallahassee reopened the case and forwarded it to prosecutors. No arrests have been made and Winston's attorney has said the sex was consensual. Winston continues to play for FSU and is widely regarded as a top candidate for college football's Heisman Trophy.
What happened in Nashville?
On June 23, police say an unconscious 21-year-old student was raped in a Vanderbilt dorm room. Vanderbilt officials, looking into an unrelated incident, spotted four players acting suspiciously on a security camera and begun their investigation. On June 26, Vanderbilt's police department turned the case over to Metro police.
The university suspended four players from the team on June 29: Brandon Vandenburg, 20, from Indio, Calif.; Cory Batey, 19, of Nashville; Brandon Eric Banks, 19, from Brandywine, Md.; and Jaborian McKenzie, 18, from Woodville, Miss. The four were charged Aug. 9 with five counts each of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Vandenburg was also charged with one count of unlawful photography and tampering with evidence. All four have pleaded not guilty.
In addition, former Vanderbilt wide receiver Chris Boyd, 21, of Roswell, Ga., has pleaded guilty to the attempted cover-up of the rape, in return for testimony against his former teammates. Miles Finley, 19, of Bermuda Dunes, Calif., and Joseph Quinzio, 20, of Palm Desert, Calif., are charged with tampering with evidence.
The biggest similarity between the two cases is secrecy. Police in Tallahassee have repeatedly refused to answer questions about the accusation and the way detectives handled it. Police and prosecutors in Nashville have been similarly mum, revealing only scant details in court and refusing to spell out what role some of the players had in the incident. In particular, prosecutors have refused to say what part — if any — Vanderbilt's starting quarterback, Austyn Carta-Samuels, played in the aftermath of the incident. He has been named as a witness in the case.
Police and prosecutors in Nashville say they have photographs and video of the attack. It's unclear if Tallahassee investigators have similar evidence, meaning it could come down to whether the sex was consensual. But so far no charges have been filed in the Florida case.
Nashville police were able to make arrests quickly in their case — possibly because of the photo and video evidence. Questions have been raised about how reliable witnesses might be with the nearly year-long delay in the FSU investigation.
Vanderbilt suspended the four players from the team and kicked them out of school not long after the police investigation began — before any of them had played a game for the team. FSU has allowed Winston to continue to play as his team chases a possible National Championship berth.