Jameis Winston will not be charged with violating university conduct codes after a judge ruled there was insufficient information provided to charge him.
The Florida State quarterback has faced sexual assault accusations dating back to last season's national championship run and Heisman Trophy season. A woman had accused Winston of assaulting her in December 2012, though he has maintained that their encounter in his off-campus apartment was consensual.
"The preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for any of the charge violations of the Code," wrote Major Harding, a former Florida State Supreme Court Chief Justice, in a letter obtained by multiple news outlets.
"Namely, I find that the evidence before me is insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof."
Winston refused to answer questions during his conduct hearing, as did two teammates who were said to have been at the apartment the night of the alleged assault. He did read from a five-page statement in which he detailed the events of that night, declaring his innocence and at one point comparing the ordeal of being accused of sexual assault to actually being the victim of assault.
"Rape is a vicious crime," Winston's statement said. "The only thing as vicious as rape is falsely accusing someone of rape."
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Innocent until proven guilty
The ruling was unsurprising. This was always how it would end, though it was important to see the justice system play out as much as possible.
The burden of proof was on the accuser to show clear evidence of Winston's guilt. And it was going to be difficult to pin direct blame on Winston, regardless of whether he was guilty or not.
There are a number of reasons for this: For one, the allegations didn't come out until almost a year after the alleged incident occurred. Secondly, police did little to gather evidence in the immediate aftermath of the purported sexual assault, waiting weeks before getting a DNA sample and interviewing Winston's roommates.
And speaking of those roommates, Winston's two teammates defended their quarterback and one of them conveniently deleted cellphone video that he had taken of the sexual act.
Even under the best of clearly tragic circumstances, it can be difficult to prove fault.
Firstly, sexual assault is an unreported crime. Only 32 of every 100 rapes get reported to police. Of those, only two will lead to a felony conviction that lasts more than a single day in jail.
College playoff continues
While Winston's accuser will be able to appeal the ruling until Jan. 13, the decision almost assures that the star quarterback will avoid any more punishment before season's end.
The Seminoles will play Oregon in the inaugural College Football Playoff, setting off a Rose Bowl matchup on New Year's Day that will determine who advances to the title game.