Tallahassee police officers did not properly handle a car accident involving two Florida State football players, according to a report from The New York Times.
Junior defensive backs P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby fled the scene of the accident, which occurred at 2:37 a.m. on Oct. 5, after a car driven by Williams collided with another vehicle, according to the Times. Tallahassee police issued Williams two traffic tickets after initially labeling the incident a hit-and-run.
Darby was one of two passengers in the car driven by Williams, who had a suspended license, according to the Times.
The officers did not subject Williams to an alcohol test or indicate in their report of the incident whether they asked Williams if he had consumed alcohol or why he left the scene of the crash, the Times found. In addition, police told the Times a technical glitch was the reason the case was not made public on an online database of police calls.
According to the Times, the officers said in their report that Williams was not charged because he returned about 20 minutes later despite police not asking him to do so. That treatment, the Times found, is different from how officers handled a less serious car accident last month.
The TPD supplied the Times with seven other cases wherein a person did not face charges for a hit-and-run despite fleeing the scene of the incident. But the Times determined that none of those cases could be compared "in severity or circumstances" to the crash involving the Florida State players.
The Times reports that "by the next day, it was as if the hit and run had never happened."
Florida State University president John Thrasher responded to the Times article with a letter on Friday. From the letter:
We want to assure you that, as FSU Police Chief David Perry made clear to the reporter, the department’s officers acted entirely appropriately and followed department procedures. We are disturbed that a newspaper with a distinguished reputation would print such a speculative story. Four experienced law enforcement officers were on site and none saw any indication of the driver being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The implication that anyone involved in the accident had anything to do with a burglary is totally unsupported and offensive. Finally, there is no indication of any special treatment of the student-athletes by the officers involved.
Thrasher also writes that the university "worked very hard to provide accurate information to the reporter" and that when read carefully, "it is clear the story contains no evidence to support any of the writer’s implications."
Tallahassee police chief Michael DeLeo told the Times that the incident involving the Florida State players and TPD officers' handling thereof would be investigated.
The Times also showed its findings to the Tallahassee police chief, Michael DeLeo, who said in an interview that the department would “conduct an investigation to determine what happened and whether the officers acted appropriately.” He added, “No one should be shown any favoritism.”
The report also says that university police officers, despite lacking jurisdiction, showed up at the crash. Florida State said the officers did not file a report because they “were not involved in the investigation, didn’t make an arrest and their assist didn’t result in an arrest, citation or summons,” even though university officers who take actions in response to requests for outside assistance are required to file reports, according to the Times.
In a statement, the campus police chief said the officers acted appropriately upon review.
Other Florida State football players have had run-ins with the law in recent years. Quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was accused of raping another student in December 2012. Running back Karlos Williams was investigated in a domestic battery case.
In November 2013, the state's attorney announced that it was opening an investigation into the accusation against Winston. The investigation was completed a month later. Winston wasn't charged in the case and has repeatedly denied the allegations through his attorney. The quarterback is set to face a Florida State code of conduct hearing, which was recently postponed until Dec. 1.
Authorities have been criticized for being slow to act in investigating the claim against Winston. In April, the Times "found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university." In October, a FOX Sports report alleged that university administrators and Tallahassee police took steps to "hide and then hinder" an investigation.
Karlos Williams was not charged after an investigation by the TPD concluded on Wednesday. The woman Williams was accused of assaulting emailed an investigator saying she decided not to press charges.
P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby are starting cornerbacks this season. Williams was named the defensive MVP of the Seminoles' national championship win over Auburn. Both are considered NFL draft prospects.
Florida State is 9-0 this season and ranked third in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. The Seminoles play at Miami on Saturday.