Content warning: This post contains mentions of rape and sexual assault.
Former NFL tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. has requested his 14-year prison sentence be reduced with the argument that the physical trauma he sustained while playing football entitles him to a shorter stay behind bars under a new California law, according to USA Today's Brent Schrotenboer.
Winslow reportedly mailed a handwritten habeas corpus petition in November from a state prison in Tehachapi, California, and is representing himself without an attorney.
The former Cleveland Browns first-round draft pick and Pro Bowler received his 14-year sentence in March 2021 under a plea arrangement that saw Winslow convicted of forcible rape, rape of an unconscious person, assault with intent to commit rape, indecent exposure and lewd conduct in public. He had originally been facing life in prison.
Why Kellen Winslow Jr. thinks he should get out of prison early
The petition reportedly argues that Winslow's trauma from football played a role in the offenses that landed him in prison and currently have him ineligible for parole until July 2028:
“Petitioner contends he suffered physical trauma as a result from mild traumatic brian (sic) disorder, as well as potentially CTE. and this trauma was a contributing factor in the commission of the offense,” Winslow wrote by hand, referring to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease associated with head trauma in football. “Petitioner now seeks a remand for resentencing based on AB 124. Petitioner argues because physical trauma contributed to the offenses … the court is required to impose the lower term (of the sentencing considerations).”
The bill Winslow refers to, Assembly Bill 124, was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021. Per USA Today, the bill was intended to help criminal defendants who have previously experienced “psychological, physical, or childhood trauma, including, but not limited to, abuse, neglect, exploitation, or sexual violence,” requiring such issues to be considered during plea bargaining, sentencing or resentencing.
Winslow's attorneys reportedly made a similar argument during his sentencing, claiming he had potentially sustained more than 1,000 blows to his head during his football career, as well as head trauma from a 2005 motorcycle accident. He still received a 14-year sentence.
The San Diego County District Attorney's Office reportedly said it had not yet received Winslow's petition, but would consider it whenever it arrives:
“We have not received Mr. Winslow’s habeas,” San Diego County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said. “Once it has been received we will evaluate it for next steps. We do believe that Winslow received a fair trial and sentence for this serious sexual assault case. We will review everything, but with justice for the victims at the forefront of our consideration.”
In an earlier petition, Winslow also reportedly asked the court to waive a prohibition against him leaving California during his parole period, as he wants to move to Florida, where he attended college at Miami, to begin a coaching career.
How Kellen Winslow Jr. received his 14-year prison sentence
The 14-year sentence was the result of a years-long legal battle after Winslow was accused of multiple rapes and sexual offenses committed against five women in Southern California. He was originally found guilty in 2019 of raping a 58-year-old homeless woman in San Diego, but the jury was deadlocked on six additional felonies.
Winslow subsequently pleaded guilty to raping an unconscious 17-year-old girl in 2003 and to sexual battery of a a 54-year-old hitchhiker in 2018 and later revised the plea deal in a way that set his maximum sentence at 14 years, which he received.
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