Nearly a year after Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of sexual assault, a state attorney announced in December he would face no charges. Yet from the beginning, there were questions about whether police, either out of deference to the football team or through astounding incompetence, dropped the ball on the investigation.
A stunning deep dive by Walt Bogdanich in Wednesday's New York Times concludes the investigation wasn't just botched, but rather that "there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university."
A sampling of some of the most incredible investigative failures:
* Police didn't pull security camera footage from the local bar where Winston's accuser said she met him and two other men. The state attorney would do so 11 months later, after the tapes had been reused.
* Even after the accuser identified Winston in class, police waited two more weeks before contacting him — by phone. Winston said he had baseball practice and would call back later; his lawyer then called for him and said he wouldn't talk.
* The lead detective, Scott Angulo, was a booster for a $150 million nonprofit that funds FSU football. He waited two months to file his first report, and closed the case at the time without even getting a DNA sample from Winston.
The university, too, apparently failed to follow proper investigative procedures after the athletic department learned of the incident. And it failed to follow up on a witness' admission he'd filmed the sexual encounter. (Winston admits to the encounter, but claims it was consensual.)
Again, Winston has never been charged and must be presumed innocent. But the baffling failures by the police and university look terrible in light of quotes like this one, from Chief Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman: "I believe that Mr. Winston cannot be convicted. I don't necessarily believe that he's innocent."
Only in America: Lawmaker refuses to back LGBT civil rights protections because similar laws don't exist for obese people
An Indiana lawmaker is refusing to back civil rights protections for gays and lesbians because there are no similar laws protecting "fat white people." State Rep. Woody Burton called homosexuality "a behavioral thing," like overeating, and argued, "If I pass a law that says transgenders and homosexuals are covered under the civil rights laws, does it say anywhere that fat white people are covered?"
Twitter revealed Friday that it has deleted 125,000 accounts threatening or promoting terrorism since mid-2015, CNBC reports. The Brookings Institution estimated last year that there were at least 46,000 such accounts in existence; Twitter's numbers indicate that ISIS and other terrorist groups have either upped their presence on social media, or Twitter has become better at targeting terrorist accounts.
Spam-fighting technology flags posts by potential terrorists, which are then reviewed by humans, The Associated Press reports. Prior to Friday, Twitter had not revealed the scale to which terrorists were active on Twitter. Jeva Lange
At the price it sells for, this little chocolate ball "better cure PMS, heartbreak, and file our income taxes," said Dominique Haikel at E! Online. For years now, La Madeline au Truffle ($250) from Connecticut-based chocolatier Fritz Knipschildt has reigned as the most extravagant confection in the world. Each one is made to order to get the most of its seven-day shelf life. Dark chocolate dusted in cocoa powder encases a rare mushroom — a Périgord truffle — that's been smothered in a chocolate ganache infused with truffle oil. The whole thing weighs just 1.9 oz, but comes resting on a bed of sugar pearls in a pretty silver box.
The Vatican announced Friday that Pope Francis and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, will meet in Cuba next Friday, marking the first such meeting between a pope and a Russian patriarch in history. The Eastern Orthodox and Western factions of Christianity split nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054's Great Schism over issues such as papal authority and have remained "formally estranged" ever since, The Washington Post reports.
The private, two-hour meeting will take place at José Martí International Airport in Havana. It's seen as the most significant effort ever made to repair relations. Becca Stanek
Rumor has it that Bernie Sanders will make an appearance on this weekend's Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Larry David, who just so happens to be a skilled imitator of the Vermont senator. "We'll be live in New York," Sanders' senior adviser Tad Devine told CNN Friday.
This would mark Sanders' first actual appearance on the show, though David has appeared many times this season to impersonate him. Sanders' Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton made a cameo back in October.
His appearance would come just days before the New Hampshire primaries on Tuesday. NBC has yet to make an official announcement. Becca Stanek
With four days to go until the New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump has made what some believe is a questionable move — leaving the state altogether. While other candidates have been staying in hotels in the state, Trump canceled his New Hampshire event on Friday after inexplicably flying back to New York late Thursday. Trump instead plans to attend a rally in South Carolina Friday evening after essentially having "a day off," Red State reports.
"Big storm in New Hampshire. Moved my event to Monday. Will be there next four days," Trump tweeted by way of explanation.
The rest of the candidates have chosen to press on, not sharing Trump's habit of flying home every night after campaigning. "My 90-year-old mother made it out to campaign," Jeb Bush tweeted at Trump.
An anonymous official speaking with CNN also raised the question of if Friday's snowfall was truly a reason to cancel an event. "There are no other campaigns canceling events as far as I know right now. We would expect there to be a blizzard for a campaign to cancel. So maybe the question is: Why did he go back to New York last night?" the GOP official asked. Watch MSNBC break down the possible consequences of Trump's decision below. Jeva Lange
A Minnesota school has banned Valentine's Day, Christmas, and other "dominant holidays" to prevent students from diverse cultures from feeling left out. Celebrating the holidays in a school with many immigrants is "threatening the culture of tolerance and respect for all," said Bruce Vento Elementary School principal Scott Masini. Many parents responded with anger, with one calling the policy "nuts."