Willie Meggs entered national headlines today, with his announcement that his office will not pursue rape charges against FSU star quarterback Jameis Winston. However, he’s been a lightning rod for controversy in North Florida for years. Here’s what we know about him:
1. He’s Been a State Attorney in Florida for Nearly 30 Years
Meggs was first elected state attorney in 1985, rising to the position after years of work within the Tallahassee Police Department.
2. In 2007, Meggs Prosecuted a Man for Posting a Cop’s Phone Number on the Internet
According to the Orlando Sentinel , in 2007, Talahasee citizen Robert Brayshaw for posted the cell-phone number and age of a policewoman who was investigating him for trespassing on the website Ratemycop.com. Meggs charged Brayshaw based on a little-used statute from 1972, which made dissemination of an officer’s phone number illegal.
In 2010, the Tallahassee chapter of the ACLU won a lawsuit against the city and State Attorney Meggs arguing that the prosecution represented a violation of Brayshaw’s first amendments rights.
3. Meggs Has Been Accused of Selective Prosecution Based on Political Favoritism
According to examiner.com, in 2011 Lisa Brown, the girlfriend of Assistant State Attorney Jeremy Mutz, was pulled over for a DUI. However, when one of the officer’s remembered her relationship Mutz, he called the Assistant State Attorney and “brokered a deal” to have Mutz pick her up and take her home, without subjecting Brown to any sobriety or blood alcohol test.
The incident may have never come to public attention, if Brown hadn’t crashed her car while driving drunk later that week. According to Florida law, two associated DUI incidents require jail time. Willie Meggs’ office allowed Lisa Brown to plea no contest to a single DUI, and sentenced her to a period of probation.
4. He Has Been Accused of Over-Prosecuting People of Color
In 2012, Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor, in an interview with Florida’s WCTV, claimed that under Meggs leadership the ratio of black minors to white minors charged as adults in Leon County Jails was 10 to 1.
5. He’s Been an Out-Spoken Critic of “Stand Your Ground Laws”
When asked by the Tampa Bay Times, shortly after the death of Trayvon Martin, what he thought about Stand Your Ground legislation, Meggs responded: “It’s crazy. It’s insanity. Stand your ground is the dumbest law ever put on the books.”