• Home
  • Opinion
  • Lifestyle
  • Weather
  • Nature Calendar
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Florida Tales
  • You And The Law
  • Contact Us
  • Classifieds
  • About Jack Strickland

    Jack Strickland is a retired AP writer who was nominated by our newspaper for The Pulitzer Prize. His writing about Florida prisons, cancer victims, sports, and just plain folks is a special treasury for readers. He is active in the war against cancer. He, himself, is a survivor. As a reporter he covered many of the major stories in Florida. He lives in Gainesville where he is an advocate for cancer patients of all ages. Jack finds special joy in getting sports stars and teams involved in the care young cancer victims. He claims that the athletes benefit from the involvement as much as the patients. He says he managed to miss many tackles as a football player long ago, and learned that defeat can be temporary and serve as the foundation for success.
    Recent Florida Tales Content

     • Gator gym team changes sadness to a smile for cancer victims at Hope Lodge - Dynamic UF gymnastics team is a winner everywhere, and in the fight against cancer they bring laughter and inspiration to patient who felt depressed. ...
     • Day in court in Alachua County: tragedy without an end - Young father could face 48 years in prison in accident in which his 4-month-old daughter and a 6-year-old boy were killed. A day in court in Alachua County shed light on how the wheels of justice turn in this case. ...
     • Day in court in Alachua County: tragedy without an end - Young father could face 48 years in prison in accident in which his 4-month-old daughter and a 6-year-old boy were killed. A day in court in Alachua County shed light on how the wheels of justice turn in this case. ...
     • Swept up into court, the homeless lady gets a bit of justice, a taste of mercy in daily docket - Day in court puts the drama on the front burner as judge tries to sort out fates of those caught in the justice system. Multiple charges are the rule. ...
     • Nation’s handicapped got royal treatment as Tebow Foundation sponsored a special night - Tim Tebow foundation sponsored a gala event for the handicapped, and they arrived in stretch limousines and horse-drawn carriages. ...
     • Sophia, 10, battles leukemia with courage as champion Gator volleyball team wears her ribbon - Sophia Castro becomes honorary member of SEC champion team in her courageous fight against leukemia ...
     • Kids at hospital show No.1 Gator basketball team true courage as laughter, smiles are shared - After defeating basketball powerhouse Kentucky, the Gator basketball team took on even a more daunting challenge of fighting on behalf of kids who face life-threatening illness at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. ...
     • Capt. Reeves, trained to shoot first, ask questions later, could face prison fate worse than death - The inside story of what happened in tragic shooting in movie theatre near Tampa reveals that police officer may have regretted firing his gun. ...
     • Jolly old Brits slam legal door on Tyson, but ex-con and author finds justice, warmth in Paris - Most countries recognize that when a man has served his time in jail, he’s paid his debt to society. So let’s not go to England’s cold, damp climate and we can have a good time elsewhere. ...
     • Many years ago, police did delay actions on an athlete, and they were right at that time - The allegations in the Jameis Winston controversy raise more questions, and bring to mind an earlier incident with another athlete in which the police did exercise discretion, to their credit. ...
     • I ‘ain’t dead yet’ despite what the doctor’s records show, and that’s enough to mix up everyone - Columnist Jack Strickland has been listed as “dead” by the authorities, but this column proves he is very much alive. ...
     • I ‘ain’t dead yet’ despite what the doctor’s records show, and that’s enough to befuddle everyone - Columnist Jack Strickland has been listed as “dead” by the authorities, but this column proves he is very much alive. ...
     • Football season is uproarious time for players, fans and coaches - Among so many jests, we recall famous coach Norm Van Brocklin who once said he needed a brain transplant and wanted the brain of a sportswriter because it had never been used. ...
     • Ariel Castro would have eventually been killed under ‘Convicts’ Code of Ethics’ - Even with no death penalty for his horrific crimes, Ariel Castro faced a terminal fate in prison where he finally committed suicide. There is little or no protection in prison for convicts whose crimes cross the line drawn by other prisoners. ...
     • Breathless comeback, tears of joy mark Gator victory in national gymnastics championships - The University of Florida gymnastics team faced a tough battle as first event became prelude to courageous comeback for the team and their coach at the 2013 National Championships. ...

    Recent TTN News Content

     • A free life is a miracle for Calvin Thomas after he serves 57 years of a death sentence - It is no small miracle that Thomas is alive. His death warrant was signed in the 1960's. He was moved to "The Ready Room" next to the electric chair as preparations were made for his execution. The courts granted a stay of execution hours before he was scheduled to be put to death. Now, he will enjoy a new life, out of prison. ...
     • Aaron Hernandez left a message of eternal life as he willfully took his own life in prison - Aaron Hernandez was a gifted athlete who led a troubled life. But his suicide caught friends and family by surprise, a week after an quital in court on another case. ...
     • Frosty the Snowman provided a chilly break from Florida’s warmer winter weather - Visiting up North was an experience that a Floridian could enjoy, but coming home to warmer weather makes one appreciate Florida. ...
     • Women prisoners count their blessings on a tearful Thanksgiving at Lowell Prison - Visits on Thanksgiving were all too short at Lowell Prison where children were asking "Why can't I stay with Mommy?" Columnist Jack Strickland visits at Lowell and writes a riveting story about the emotions of the day as families got together all too briefly. He came away with both a feeling of sadness and of joy. ...
     • “Souls to the Polls” march re-enacts history to inspire students at FAMU to vote in the election - FAMU students recreated history on Sunday with a march to the polls to demonstrate the importance of voting and to inspire students to vote in the national election. ...
     • Florida women’s prison is nightmare as prisoners endure humiliation, poor medical care, rip-offs - Florida's major prison for women is an endless nightmare for those who have to endure the permanent psychological scarring that results from little privacy, no meaningful rehabilitation, general neglect of medical care by the prisons, and the rip-off of high prices for phone calls and items supplied by private contractors. ...
     • Question is whether Adelson family was involved in Markel murder, and motives of the suspects - Questions remain unanswered about release of evidence and possible motives for murder - were suspects trying to extort money from Adelsons? ...
     • Small explosion causes chaos at Florida A&M University - An explosion at the FAMU campus Thursday was actually a dishwasher catching fire. However it did cause a scare among faculty, staff and students at the Presidential Dining Hall. ...
     • In a surprise appearance, Shaq has a ball inspiring neighborhood kids to dream big - A surprise visit by the former star basketball player to Gainesville and the police department brought out good feelings all around as kids got to play with superstar. ...
     • ‘Cash register justice’ for the poor means no justice for many in Florida courts - Prosecutors now seek to extract fees from indigent defendents to help pay office costs, causing possible miscarriage of justice, says national justice center. ...
     • If Jeb Bush ever really went to prison in Florida, he wouldn’t get a happy reception - The disaster of corruption, privatized prisons, and loss of competent leadership in state prisons is Jeb Bush’s legacy in Florida. ...
     • Court fails to convict police officer in NC shooting death of former FAMU football player - Family pleads for calm as jury fails to find officer guilty in shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell in Charlotte; no decision yet on retrial. ...
     • Carson wins best dressed while Trump brings up the rear in the clash of haberdashery at GOP debate - Who was dressed to win the recent GOP debate? Who wore the most stunning tie, and the best cut suit? Looks like neurosurgeon Ben Carson knows how to dress. Donald Trump, who sells a line of clothing, ironically finishes last. ...
     • FSU could receive NCAA sanctions similar to those of Penn State sex scandal - Recent events will add up to more problems for Florida State University when NCAA and Title IX investigators report their findings. ...
     • Gators end Florida State’s baseball hopes in big wins in Gainesville; on to the Series - Getting back into the College World Series was a dream for both teams, but the Gators managed to teach Florida State a lesson or two. ...

    Jack Strickland's Florida Tales...

    Many years ago, police did delay actions on an athlete, and they were right at that time

    November 22, 2013

    Statewide

    Did star football player Jameis Winston rape a young girl in Tallahassee on Dec. 7, 2012? That is the multi-million dollar question. The college and professional football career of Florida State’s sensational freshman quarterback hangs in the balance.

    Also in jeopardy is an opportunity for the number 2 nationally ranked Florida State football team to go to the Rose Bowl in January to play for the national championship.

    Winning the national championship could bring millions of dollars to the Tallahassee economy in television revenues and endorsements. It seems that everyone has an ax to grind in this situation and wants to influence how this case is handled.

    The welfare of the young alleged victim is also in jeopardy. Big money should not cloud the issue of what is really important: Is a rape victim getting justice? Is a criminal being properly held accountable for his crime?

    More questions than answers

    And, is the reputation of a colorful young football player being unjustly tarnished? Is he being falsely accused because he is in the limelight and has been viewed as America’s more outstanding college football player? Does being the leading candidate to win this year’s Heisman Trophy cause unscrupulous people to want to bring him down on false pretenses? 

    Seemingly lost in all of this is this fact: if he is convicted of sexual assault, Jameis Winston could lose his freedom and be required to serve a lengthy sentence in one of Florida’s major prisons.

    The circumstances surrounding this case raise more questions than they provide answers. On the surface it appears that the Tallahassee police are guilty of engineering a cover up. Why did they quietly close the rape case in February without questioning suspects?

    Why was the case never forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office for review and determination if prosecution is warranted? If Jameis Winston is innocent and not involved in the sexual assault, or the events surrounding it,  why did he secure the services of a lawyer to represent and defend him?

    The Tallahassee Police Department is getting a black eye over the handling of this case. It is an agency that can ill afford bad publicity in the wake of recent scandals that rocked the the police department.

    This week, readers following the case were shocked -and some were outraged- to learn from the media that a lead detective in the case had advised the alleged victim to consider the consequences of pursuing prosecution of an FSU athlete.

    In February, he reportedly reminded her Tallahassee is a football town, where she would be raked over the coals, and have her life made miserable if she pressed charges.

    The alleged victim apparently took the police officer’s advice. She withdrew from school, left town, and the case was “closed.”
    The detective’s advice seems to ring true. When the case was reopened last week all Hell broke loose.

    He may be innocent, but some have convicted him

    The incident is receiving world-wide attention. For her safety her identity and location has been kept secret. Jameis Winston, FSU football, the school, and college athletics in general have not fared much better. Lives and programs have been changed forever since this incident went public.

    Jamis Winston may be innocent. In the eyes of many he has already been convicted. Two weeks ago he was the poster boy for college football and was a shoo-in to win the Heisman Trophy as a first year football player.

    He has no chance to win it now. If he is arrested he may never play football again.

    It is possible that TPD got this one right. Quietly closing the books without unjustly damaging the careers and reputations of innocent people mentioned in the incident may have been the just, honorable, and heroic thing to do.

    Second chances have occurred before

    An incident, 15 years ago, involving another large football university, might shed light on the wisdom of the police quietly closing out a case like this one.

    In this case, a young All America football player was arrested and charged with theft. His coach kicked him off the team and revoked his scholarship.  His lawyer negotiated a deferred prosecution with the adjudication of guilt withheld.

    His coach allowed him to walk back on to the team and earn back his scholarship and starting position. The public hue and cry was enormous. There was a campaign to kick him out of school and ban him from ever playing college football, anywhere.

    He was required to perform hours of community service as part of his deferred prosecution agreement. He was assigned to spend a day at the high school he had attended-where he had starred in multiple sports-to counsel and rap with students who were potential juvenile offenders.

    He put on an impressive clinic, that day. He was effective in getting the attention of the kids and warning them to “do as I say, not as I did.” He finished up his day playing pick-up basketball with the kids at a vacant house across the street from the school where the kids played after-school games on a driveway basketball court.

    Sexual assault never occurred

    On the way home after his community service hours were completed, he received a frantic call from his mother telling him detectives were at her house, wanting to question him about sexual assault charges against him resulting from an incident that occurred near the school while he was there.

    A girl, 12, had been admitted to a hospital emergency room with severe bleeding resulting from vaginal injuries inflicted during consensual sex with multiple partners. She identified the college athlete as the leader of the group that injured her. She reported that she was in love with him and was going to marry him.

    She did not want to press charges or have him arrested. She told detectives she had sex with his friends because she loved him and he asked her to entertain them.

    It was clear that the girl was very certain of the identity of the star athlete she had fallen in love with. She did not understand why the police were called. She was intent on marrying him and having his kids.  It was a crime made more serious because she was a child and he was an adult.

    Detectives hesitated

    But, it did not add up to the veteran detectives. Why would a college All America who could have his choice of women have sex with a kid-or get her to have sex with other kids he did not know. They did not initially file a police report as they continued to investigate.

    They knew the college star would receive such bad publicity he could never play another down of football if his name appeared on the police blotter in relation to such a sordid case. He had already used up his last chance.The public would demand that he be hanged from the highest tree if he was involved in another scandal.

    The detectives took a high school annual to the hospital room of the victim. They had covered the names under the pictures. They asked her to point out the boys she had engaged in sex with. She picked out all of them, including a kid she identified as the star athlete. That kid was a 14 year-old high school student who had pretended to be the college star athlete to entice her into the sex act.

    The case was resolved in juvenile court without any identities ever being publicly disclosed.

    The college athlete went on to star in his college career without incident, and then to the NFL..

    Police protected the innocent, got justice for the victim

    It is unlikely he would have been permitted to play at either level if his name had appeared on that police blotter. By “covering up” the incident and investigation, the police protected the innocent as they got justice for the victim.

    It may be too much to hope the motives of the TPD are similar in the case involving Jamis Winston. If he was not involved in the sexual assault he has been unjustly and irreparably harmed by reopening the case and smearing his name all over the media. If he is guilty he needs to be held accountable and the victim deserves justice.

    The sullied reputation of the Tallahassee Police Department may require a thorough review and investigation of the incident by an independent agency before the public can give a vote of confidence of the final action.

    Veteran State Attorney Willie Meggs has taken jurisdiction of the case. This week a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report was released revealing Jamis Winston’s DNA was found on the victim’s underwear.  Clearly a sex act between Winston and the Alleged victim occurred. At issue is was it rape or was it consensual. On Thursday Meggs interviewed the victim. A decision on charging Winston is expected soon.

    FSU has a policy requiring any player to be suspended if he is charged with a felony. That suspension continues until the case is resolved. The Winston case may not be that clear cut. There is a clause in the FSU mandate that allows the FSU administration to make exceptions to the policy.

    This incident has grown much larger than Jamis Winston and the alleged victim.

    FSU and its athletic program is also on trial. In the past the Seminoles have been dubbed the “Criminoles” because of the large number of athletes who have been arrested. FSU faculty members have complained about special treatment and privilege afforded to “Jocks.”

    There have been complaints about intimidation from athletes and their"handlers” and excusing and covering up their unlawful acts.

    All of that is back in the public eye and under review.

    Sadly, the sage Tallahassee Police Department detective may have had it right. Don’t rock the boat. Go home and forget about it. Let the system continue and everyone prospers and lives happily ever after. If Jameis Winston is innocent he is protected and no one gets a black eye.

    If Jameis Winston is guilty, by coming forward, the alleged victim will get justice -  if Meggs moves the case forward.

    She has also forever changed the culture of Florida State football and the way The Tallahassee Police Department conducts its investigations. Stay tuned.