TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Nearly a year after Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of rape by a female FSU student, the state attorney has decided not to charge the Heisman Trophy favorite.
Thursday's decision clears the way for Winston to finish the season with the No. 1 Seminoles.
Willie Meggs, the state attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit, announced the move during a news conference at the Leon County Courthouse. Winston had faced felony charges after being accused of sexually assaulting the woman at an off-campus apartment on Dec. 7, 2012.
"We've carefully examined all the evidence in this case and have concluded that no charges will be filed against anyone in this case," Meggs said.
Meggs and his office had been investigating the case for the past three weeks, and they interviewed the accuser about two weeks ago. Last month, ESPN.com reported that DNA found in the woman's underwear matched Winston's. His attorney, Tim Jansen of Tallahassee, said Winston had consensual sex with the woman. But the woman's attorney, Patricia Carroll of Tampa, Fla., said Winston raped her 19-year-old client, who withdrew from classes after the allegations resurfaced in media reports last month.
"We have a duty as prosecutors to determine if each case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction," Meggs said. "After reviewing the facts in this case, we do not feel that we can reach those burdens."
While the case could be reopened if new evidence is found, Meggs indicated that he "had no earthly idea what that would be."
Carroll released a statement shortly after Meggs spoke.
"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 statement said. "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."
After hearing Meggs' decision, Jansen said of his client: "He's absolutely innocent, and I'm glad and pleased that Willie did a full investigation and found the same thing we did. There's no evidence. He could not go forward with any charges."
He also said that he had spoken to Winston.
"He was really happy. He's relieved it's over, and now he's focused even more on football," Jansen said.
Winston also released a statement, saying: "It's been difficult to stay silent through this process, but I never lost faith in the truth and in who I am."
Jansen said that Winston's legal team has considered legal action.
"His reputation is important to him," he said. "His career is important to him." He added that certain organizations have done improper things, without naming those organizations.
Earlier, Meggs was asked whether Winston, possibly the most identifiable player in college football this year, received preferential treatment in the case.
"We try to treat everyone fairly, and I think we have a track record of doing that," he said.
Meggs wouldn't say whether his decision was a vindication for Winston, saying he would "leave that to you all after you review the facts."