A shocking new “Outside the Lines” report by ESPN indicates student-athletes representing Florida and Florida State, as well as other high-profile programs, receive preferential treatment and less prosecution when it comes to run-ins with the law.
Detailed in the report are incidents on how ex-Florida running back Chris Rainey was charged with five crimes but faced charges just once. Access to top-notch legal counsel and public criticism if college athletes are charged, has allowed college players to skate around the legal system, the report says.
More from Paula Lavigne of ESPN:
But available reports showed that Rainey’s alma mater, Florida, had the most athletes named as suspects — 80 in more than 100 crimes at Florida. Yet the athletes never faced charges, had charges against them dropped or were not prosecuted 56 percent of the time. When Outside the Lines examined a comparison set of cases involving college-age males in Gainesville, 28 percent of the crimes ended either without a record of charges being filed or by charges eventually being dropped.
Florida State had the second-highest number of athletes named in criminal allegations: 66 men’s basketball and football athletes. In 70 percent of those incidents, the athletes never faced charges, had charges against them dropped or were not prosecuted. By comparison, cases ended up without being prosecuted 50 percent of the time among a sample of crimes involving college-age males in Tallahassee.
Overall, the Outside the Lines investigation found that what occurs between high-profile college athletes and law enforcement is not as simple as the commonly held perception that police and prosecutors simply show preferential treatment, although that does occur. Rather, the examination of more than 2,000 documents shows that athletes from the 10 schools mainly benefited from the confluence of factors that can be reality at major sports programs: the near-immediate access to high-profile attorneys, the intimidation that is felt by witnesses who accuse athletes and the higher bar some criminal justice officials feel needs to be met in high-profile cases.
The full report also goes into detail of events occurring at Michigan State, Missouri and Oregon State where athletes were not punished since their accusers were afraid of public criticism, with them being labeled as sabotaging their respective team’s fortunes.
With the Jameis Winston case a high-profile one, Florida state attorney Willie Meggs received harassing letters, calls and e-mails with threatening tones if he got Winston in trouble since Florida State was in position to win a title.
It’s a a fascinating read on how college athletes are viewed in the legal system and how they are shielded from personal responsibility.