The NFL suspended Winston for the first three games of the season over the incident after its investigation found that Winston violated the league’s personal conduct policy for “touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.” Uber also conducted an investigation and banned Winston from using the service for life.
In December 2016, Winston settled a lawsuit filed by a woman who alleged that Winston sexually assaulted her while both were students at Florida State in 2012. He did not face criminal charges in either incident.
According to the more recent lawsuit, the Uber driver — identified in court papers only as Kate P. — picked up Winston at a nightclub in Scottsdale, Ariz., early on the morning of March 13, 2016, his destination a hotel about 6.5 miles to the west in Phoenix. As Winston approached her car with two men, identified as longtime friend Ronald Darby and Brandon Banks, one of them told Winston: “She is hot. You should sit in the front seat, Jameis.” He did so and set off for the hotel without the other two men, who told the driver as she left that her fare was “the Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback,” that he was “precious cargo” and that she needed to “make sure you take real good care of him.”
As the car pulled out of the parking lot, the lawsuit claims, Winston became “belligerent with some male pedestrians that were near the same club — screaming and swearing obscenities and racial epithets out the window.” Though not outwardly intoxicated, the lawsuit claims “Mr. Winston was clearly in a poor mood.”
One block later, Winston told the driver that he wanted “a burrito,” so she took him to a restaurant with a drive-through window. It was there, the driver alleged, that Winston assaulted her.
“While waiting for the food to arrive and without any warning, Defendant Winston leaned toward Plaintiff and placed his fingers between her legs and pressed them firmly against her vagina over her yoga pants,” the lawsuit says.
After dropping off Winston at the hotel, the driver texted her boyfriend to say that she “just got semi molested by the Tampa Bay Buc QB” and that she was “pretty shaken up ...” The lawsuit alleges that she did not report the matter to police because of “Winston’s celebrity status and the negative attention that would likely come with any criminal case against Defendant Winston.” She decided to file the lawsuit after becoming encouraged by the #MeToo movement in the fall of 2017.
After BuzzFeed interviewed the woman and published a story about her allegations, Winston issued a statement saying she must have been “confused” about who was sitting next to her in the car. Darby, who played with Winston at Florida State and currently is with the Philadelphia Eagles, issued a statement of his own saying he and another friend were in the car when the incident allegedly took place and that nothing inappropriate occurred. But the NFL’s investigation found that the driver’s account was “consistent and credible,” and the league suspended him for the first three games of this season. In a statement, Winston said “I genuinely apologize” to the Uber driver.
“In the past 2 ½ years, my life has been filled with experiences, opportunities and events that have helped me grow, mature and learn, including the fact that I have eliminated alcohol from my life,” Winston wrote.
After serving his suspension, Winston has twice regained his starting job for Tampa Bay this season, throwing 10 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. The Buccaneers will decide after the season whether to retain the No. 1 pick of the 2015 NFL draft for 2019, as his contract for next season is guaranteed only because of injury.
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