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Jameis Winston accuser plans to sue FSU QB, Tallahassee PD

Jameis Winston talks to reporters on Dec. 13, 2013, in New York. AP Photo

The woman who accused Jameis Winston of raping her in December 2012 plans to file a lawsuit against the Heisman Trophy winner as well as the police department that investigated her claims, according to her attorney.

Patricia Carroll told CBS News’ Crimesider that her client is preparing to sue the Florida State University quarterback, the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD), and possibly FSU.

“She was tremendously disappointed in the way this case was handled,” said Carroll. “She is seeking justice and accountability.”

On Dec. 5, 2013, Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs announced that he did not have enough evidence to file charges against Winston for the alleged rape. The decision came almost exactly one year after the woman first went to police to report she had been raped, but only weeks after Meggs’ office says it learned about the case.

Why it took so long for the police investigation to conclude is likely to be at the heart of the lawsuit against the TPD. On Dec. 7, 2012, Carroll’s client reported first to FSU police, and then TPD, that she had been raped by an unknown assailant at an off-campus apartment the night before. Hospital personnel collected evidence in a rape kit, which was given to the TPD and, once the accuser identified Winston as the alleged assailant, was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab, according to the case file released by Meggs' office. However, TPD did not ask Winston for his DNA - which matched a sample found in the accuser's underwear - until almost 11 months later.

And according to Carroll, while the alleged victim was interviewed by police five times after she made her report, TPD never interviewed Winston, and didn’t interview the friends who were with him on the night in question until – again – 10 months later. A span of time that Carroll has said allowed Winston to "create his defense and prepare his witnesses."

Carroll said the detective on the case told her that Tallahassee was "a big football town" and that her client should think hard about whether she wanted to pursue charges against the star quarterback.

Winston maintains his innocence and his attorney has implied the sexual encounter between his client and the accuser was consensual.The TPD did not immediately return a call for comment and have not publicly addressed Carroll's specific complaints regarding their handling of the case.

Carroll said that on behalf of the accuser's family, she wrote letters to Florida Governor Rick Scott, the state’s Attorney General, and TPD’s Internal Affairs unit complaining about the department’s handling of the case. She said she has not received a response from the governor, and that the AG said they do not think the Tallahassee police did anything illegal in the handling of the case. Carroll also said TPD’s internal affairs told her they think the case was handled properly, an assessment she calls “unfathomable.”

Carroll said that she has been approached by the families of two other women who said their daughters were also “treated like suspects” by the TPD when they reported sexual assaults.

“This needs to stop in Tallahassee,” said Carroll.

In the past few years, complaints about police departments mishandling rape cases have plagued cities across the nation. In September 2012, Crimesider reported about women in Washington, D.C. who felt they were discouraged from filing sexual assault reports and accused police of poor investigative practice. In 2010, a Baltimore Sun series revealed similar problems with how that city's police handled rape reports. And New Orleans, Philadelphia, Cleveland and New York police have also come under fire for downgrading rape claims or failing to properly investigate the notoriously difficult-to-prosecute cases.

  • Julia Dahl

    Julia Dahl writes about crime and justice for CBSNews.com

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