Trial begins for ex-NFL player in series of rapes
Former NFL tight end Kellen Winslow II, who set school records at the University of Miami while being honored as the nation’s best college player at his position, on Monday was found guilty of raping a homeless woman last year, as well as misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and committing a lewd act related to other victims.
The North County jury in Vista, California, near San Diego, which has been deliberating since last week, reached verdicts on four of 12 counts filed against the former Hurricanes star. The panel found him not guilty of a second count of committing a lewd act, which prosecutors said happened in front of a woman in a hot tub in Carlsbad, Calif.
The rape charge stemmed from a May 13, 2018, assault on a 58-year-old homeless woman in Encinitas, Calif. The misdemeanor counts stemmed from accusations that Winslow, 35, flashed a 57-year-old woman in that city, while she was tending to a garden outside her home, and an incident involving a 77-year-old woman at a Carlsbad gym.
Jury deliberations started June 5.
After Vista Judge Blaine Bowman took the verdicts, he sent the panel back to the jury room to continue deliberating on the remaining counts before breaking for the day. The jury is expected to return to court Tuesday morning to resume deliberations.
Winslow, who grew up in San Diego and is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow, enrolled at the University of Miami in 2001 and was Jeremy Shockey’s backup on the Hurricanes’ national championship team that season.
After Shockey left for the NFL, Winslow became the Hurricanes’ starting tight end in 2002 and set a school record for the position with 57 receptions for 726 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught 11 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in the Hurricanes’ 31-24 loss to Ohio State in the BCS National Championship game in the Fiesta Bowl.
As a junior, Winslow won the John Mackey Award given to the nation’s best tight end and was named a unanimous first-team All-American.
During that season, Winslow drew national attention after a game against the University of Tennessee. Referring to a play in which he blocked two Volunteers players to create a running lane for Devin Hester, Winslow — who did not serve in the military — referred to himself as an “[expletive] soldier” in an animated interview. He later apologized for those comments.
After that season, Winslow decided to forgo his senior season at UM and declared himself eligible for the 2004 NFL Draft.
The Cleveland Browns selected Winslow sixth overall in the 2004 draft; no Miami Hurricanes offensive playmaker has been drafted that high since.
Winslow played nine years in the NFL, with Cleveland, Tampa, New England and the New York Jets and finished with 469 career receptions for 5,236 yards and 25 touchdown receptions. He made one Pro Bowl, in 2007, and missed the 2005 season after sustaining a leg injury in a motorcycle accident.
In October 2013, Winslow was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He returned to the Jets for the final seven games that season but never played another NFL game after that.
According to overthecap.com, Winslow made $39.4 million in his career. At one point, he was the NFL’s highest-paid tight end.
Last Friday marked a year since Winslow was initially arrested after someone spotted him enter a mobile home in a park for seniors, then emerge shirtless. His camp said it had been a misunderstanding.
But a week later, authorities dropped a bomb when they announced they had rearrested Winslow, and were charging him with a string of sex crimes targeting women in their 50s or older, including two counts of forcible rape.
The accusers included a hitchhiker and a homeless woman who said they’d been raped in his SUV, and a woman who said a stranger exposed himself in her yard.
After news of his case broke last summer, a woman called San Diego authorities to say she had been raped by Winslow at a San Diego-area house party in 2003, when she was 17 and he was 19.
While Winslow was out on bail and awaiting trial, a 77-year-old woman reported that he had committed lewd acts in front of her at a gym in February.
His famous father attended the trial every day.
The verdicts follow a roughly three-week trial that saw all five accusers testify and the prosecutor refer to Winslow as a sexual predator.
“This defendant is motivated by pure, unadulterated depravity for his own sexual purposes,” Deputy District Attorney Dan Owens told the jury during closing arguments.
Noting the number of accusers, the prosecutor said: “Lightning certainly doesn’t strike twice — let alone five times.”
The defense argued that Winslow was wrongly accused, and that the case was plagued by lack of evidence and questionable credibility of alleged victims.
“Don’t take strong parts of one case to fill in the gaps of the weaker (case),” defense attorney Marc Carlos told the jury.
In opening statements on May 20, Winslow’s attorneys said their married client had engaged in extramarital sex, including with the hitchhiker, who had Winslow’s DNA in her pants.
In February, while Winslow was out on $2 million bail and awaiting trial, a 77-year-old woman reported two recent incidents at a Carlsbad gym in which she said he committed lewd acts in front of her, including in a hot tub.
On March 4, the judge revoked his bail and ordered him back to jail.
Teri Figueroa reported this story from Vista, California, for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Miami Herald Sports Reporter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.