The third man who was hanging out with Jameis Winston and Ronald Darby the night in March 2016 an Uber driver says the Buccaneers quarterback groped her has been revealed, and it’s Brandon Banks—the former Vanderbilt player currently serving a 15-year sentence for his role in raping a woman in 2013.
Banks was among four Vanderbilt football players charged later that year with sexual assault charges; three have been convicted, and the fourth’s case is still ongoing. More than half the images and video that documented that assault came off Banks’s phone. Banks’s lawyer, Mark Scruggs, says his client joined Winston and his former FSU teammate Darby that night in March 2016 while out on $50,000 bond; he was still a year away from being convicted for his role in the assault. The NFL is reportedly planning to suspend Winston three games for the 2016 incident.
Scruggs told the Tampa Bay Times that there was a second Uber trip involving Winston that night:
They were together that night. They took an Uber to a club, the three of them did, and Brandon said nothing whatsoever happened while the three of them were in the Uber. … For whatever reason, they felt they needed to put him, escort him into an Uber so he could go home on his own. There’s two different Uber rides is what we’re talking about.
Winston has denied the incident and claimed he was with Darby and an unnamed third man during the ride in question; the details as explained by Scruggs match those stated by the woman who told Buzzfeed Winston groped her:
Kate, a female Uber driver, was hailed to the lively party scene of downtown Scottsdale, Arizona to pick up a passenger around 2 a.m. on Sunday March 13, 2016. There, Kate told BuzzFeed News that a small group of men excitedly told her that she would be chauffeuring someone famous that night — Jameis Winston, 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and now quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The men placed Winston in the front passenger seat — Kate said he was the only passenger. “I started driving, and right away, Jameis behaved poorly” by shouting, in part, homophobic slurs at pedestrians, said Kate, who did not want to be identified by her full name for fear of negative attention and potential backlash from football fans. He then asked to stop for food.
Waiting in line at the drive-thru of Los Betos Mexican Food, “he reached over and he just grabbed my crotch,” Kate said, alleging that Winston held his hand there for three to five seconds and removed it only after she looked up in shock and said, “What’s up with that?”
Scruggs described Winston as an “acquaintance” of Banks. Darby previously witnessed the 2012 incident that saw a FSU student accuse Winston of sexual battery, one that led to a nearly million-dollar settlement between that student and the university; she settled with Winston in 2016. His statement after the Buzzfeed report failed to mention a second Uber ride at all:
There were three of us in the car, not just one as has been reported. Myself and Jameis were in the backseat. I am confident that nothing inappropriate in nature happened in the car that evening and Jameis did not have any physical contact with the Uber driver. The accusations are just not true.
Scruggs says the NFL never spoke to Banks, who refused to speak with the league without his lawyer present. Scruggs told the Tampa Bay Times the NFL never contacted him.
Scruggs said the NFL reached out to Banks in prison as part of their investigation into Winston, but he said he wouldn’t speak without his attorney present, and Scruggs said the league never reached out to him.
“It appeared that Mr. Winston was trying to deflect responsibility for this,” Scruggs said. “There were two different rides.”
Listing Jameis Winston’s career transgressions is difficult, and even beyond ESPN’s capabilities; obviously, he’s been accused of raping a student and, now, groping an Uber driver; his career is also full of less serious but still stupid shit like shoplifting crab legs and screaming “Fuck her right in the pussy!” Why would Winston even be seen in public with a man about to be convicted of rape and sexual assault charges? (That is a rhetorical question.)