|Joined: ||Wed Oct 19th, 2016|
VISTA, Calif. – Kellen Winslow II did not want to do this.Bill Cosby is proud of you, Kellen. I honesty knew something was wrong with this guy when he was playing college ball at Miami. No bullshit, he's always come across as a sociopath.
After fighting charges of rape and other sex crimes since last year, the former NFL star did not want to admit he did anything so heinous and cruel. But he felt he had no better choice this week in a courtroom in north San Diego County.
It was all because his risk calculation had drastically changed in the span of a week. He was left with two options: He could take an offer to plead guilty in a plea deal that would send him to prison for 12 to 18 years. Or he could go to trial again and fight the charges but risk being found guilty and sent to prison for life.
“You do not have to plead guilty if you don’t want to today, because you do have constitutional rights including a right to have a speedy and public trial by jury,” San Diego Superior Court Judge Blaine Bowman told him. “Do you give up that right so that you can enter a plea of guilty?”
“I guess I have to, Your Honor,” Winslow replied, after a long pause.
This was about 1:30 p.m. on Monday. A new jury of six men and six women was waiting in the hallway on the third floor. Winslow’s second trial on rape charges was set to begin, with a key witness on standby to testify against him that same afternoon – the homeless woman he previously was convicted of raping in May 2018.
The former University of Miami tight end already was facing nine years behind bars because of that conviction and two others at his first trial in June. Now he had to decide if he was going to take the deal by admitting to raping an unconscious woman in 2003 and sexually battering a 54-year-old hitchhiker in March 2018.
“No, you don’t have to,” the judge told him. “It’s your decision. As I’ve said, we have the jurors out there waiting. Both sides are prepared to give their opening statements, and if you want to insist on your right to a jury trial, we are ready to give you a jury trial right now.”
Winslow, 36, paused again for several minutes and asked for more time. He eventually replied “yes,” when asked if he was waiving his right to a trial to plead guilty instead.
But then came another extended silence from Winslow. To complete his guilty plea, he was required to admit to the details of the alleged crimes. He didn’t want to do that, by all indications. He showed no apparent remorse for the alleged victims.
This decision instead was a personal assessment about his future chances for freedom, according to statements by his attorneys, as often happens in criminal plea agreements. In this case, it was just on naked display in open court as he was about to face a retrial on six felony counts that had hopelessly deadlocked a different jury at his first trial.
Was he really going to admit to committing these acts against these women after denying it all along and using his attorneys to paint them as mistaken, confused or out to get some of the millions he earned in the NFL from 2004 to 2013?
The moment of truth came when the judge asked him about the unconscious woman from 2003, known as Jane Doe No. 4. Bowman read a written admission statement aloud in court and asked Winslow to confirm it:
“I unlawfully had sexual intercourse with Jane Doe No. 4 when we were both teens. She was 17. I was 19, and she was not my spouse. She was at the time unconscious, and I do not dispute her memory for purposes of this plea.”
The judge asked, “Did you in fact do that? Those facts that make you guilty of this crime?”
Winslow paused for several seconds.
“Sorry, I’m just not thinking very clearly,” Winslow said. The judge reminded him that he had just initialed a change-of-plea form that said he did that, but if Winslow also didn’t want to admit to it orally in court, he could call in the jury and start the trial.
After another pause of about 30 seconds, Winslow finally admitted to it out loud. “Uh, yes,” he said.
Winslow also pleaded guilty to felony sexual battery against the hitchhiker he picked up in his vehicle in March 2018, a woman known as Jane Doe No. 1. He admitted to touching an intimate part of her “while she was restrained, in fear against her will, for the purpose of sexual arousal.”
In exchange for those two guilty pleas, the retrial was canceled, and his other pending felony rape and sodomy charges were dismissed. Those pending charges could have put him away for life, if the jury had found him guilty.
The plea deal instead was structured to lessen risk for both sides. For Winslow, he would get a maximum of 18 years in prison at his sentencing in February instead of potentially never going home again to his son, now age 8, and daughter, now age 6. For the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, the deal would imprison a man it considered a danger to the community for up to 18 years instead of the nine years he faced for his convictions at his previous trial, prosecutor Dan Owens said.
In that trial, the jury convicted him of indecently exposing himself to a neighbor in May 2018 and engaging in a lewd act against another woman at a local gym in February, in addition to the rape of the homeless woman, all ages 57 or older. According to his plea deal, he cannot appeal those convictions.
“We did a mathematical computation,” said Gretchen von Helms, one of Winslow’s attorneys. Considering Winslow already was facing nine years in custody, only adding three to nine more years “is a small fraction to step up in exchange for dismissing counts in which he could receive life,” she said.
One week earlier, Winslow’s team had other paths to take. They had asked Bowman to reverse Winslow’s convictions from the previous trial and give Winslow a new trial on the grounds that the first trial violated precedent and denied him due process. When Bowman rejected that request Oct. 29, Winslow’s attorneys filed a 281-page document with a state appeals court the next day asking it to delay the retrial in Bowman’s court. A three-judge panel shot down that request a day later.
Winslow’s attorneys also had made a last-minute request to get his retrial moved to downtown San Diego on the grounds that the jury pool in Vista was almost all white. They argued Winslow, an African-American, would get a fairer trial there, likely in 2020. Bowman rejected this too, partly because the request came too late according to state rules.
The judge’s rejections narrowed Winslow’s choices, though the same judge also made rulings to keep other potentially damaging information against Winslow out of the trials, including former charges of him illegally entering the homes of two women ages 86 and 71.
Bowman now will decide in February whether Winslow goes to prison for 12 years or more.
“I pray to God that you give me 12, and I can go home to my family as soon as possible, Your Honor,” Winslow told him.
“You could get 18 years,” Bowman replied. “You could get 12 years, and you could get anything in between.”
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