Ex-NFL star Kellen Winslow II rebuked in court by victims, judge

SAN DIEGO – Kellen Winslow II finally received his reckoning.

It came Wednesday morning at his sentencing hearing, when the judge rebuked the former NFL star in court after he was convicted of rape and other sex crimes against five women, all of them disadvantaged, incapacitated or in their mid-50s or older.

“It just leaves us with someone who can only be described in two words,” Judge Blaine Bowman told Winslow in San Diego Superior Court. “And that is a sexual predator. And that is what Kellen Winslow II is. He’s a sexual predator. He preys on vulnerable victims and is very brazen in the way he carries out his crimes. So for that, the defendant is going to get 14 years in prison.”

Winslow’s reckoning also came from the women he raped or violated. Three of them appeared via video to confront him with victim impact statements. Another had her statement read to him in court.

Kellen Winslow II appears via video at his sentencing hearing at the Superior Court North County Division on Wednesday.

Last month Winslow, 37, agreed to end his case by accepting a punishment of 14 years behind bars for all of his crimes, which included two rapes, one assault with intent to commit rape, a case of misdemeanor indecent exposure and another case of lewd conduct involving a 77-year-old woman.

“It’s affecting my life every day and every night,” said Jane Doe 2, the homeless woman he was convicted of raping in May 2018. “When I stay at my brother’s house I look under beds, in closets. And I’ll probably never stop. I’ll never feel safe inside or outside. You brought so much damage to my life.”

Winslow now heads to prison just 17 years after the Cleveland Browns selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft – a dramatic descent for a player who once lived a life of privilege but later suffered from mental problems associated with football-related brain injuries, according to his attorneys.

Winslow declined to respond in court.

“Your honor, I’ve’ been advised by my lawyer not to speak right now,” Winslow told the judge. “But in the future, I do plan to tell my story.”

Winslow was convicted of crimes against each of the five women in the case, all in San Diego County:

►Jane Doe 1 is the hitchhiker he picked up in March 2018, then took to a parking lot behind a nearby shopping center, where she said he raped her when she was in her mid-50s. As part of his recent plea deal, he pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit rape against her, a violent sex crime. San Diego Deputy District Attorney Dan Owens read her statement in court. 

"I can’t believe he could be so nasty," her statement said. "It really hurt my feelings that he took advantage of me. He scared me so bad knowing now that he was my neighbor, and I couldn’t believe that an NFL football player would take advantage of me. I hope that you serve the 14 years, and it really impacts your life if (you) ever come out. I hope that you get the help that you need."

►Jane Doe 2 is the homeless woman he befriended in her late 50s. She said he took her to a dark spot on the side of the road in May 2018, when he choked her and raped her in the passenger seat of his vehicle. In June 2019, a jury convicted him of raping her.

►Jane Doe 3 is a woman, then in her late 50s, who was gardening in her yard in Winslow’s neighborhood in May 2018. She said a man matching Winslow’s description pulled down his pants in front of her. Digital evidence from the bicycling application Strava placed him close to the scene at the time. The jury in June 2019 then convicted him of misdemeanor indecent exposure. She did not address the court with a statement Wednesday. Bowman called the crime "brazen."

"You had your bike app on that tracks your location at the time you committed that indecent exposure," Bowman said to him.

►Jane Doe 4 is a former acquaintance who said Winslow raped her at a party while she was unconscious in 2003, when she was 17 and he was 19. He pleaded guilty to that crime in November 2019 after the jury in his first trial deadlocked on the charge.

"The sadness of reliving the act and having me speak out loud about this horrific moment of my life not only has this affected me but my family as well," Jane Doe 4 said Wednesday, fighting tears. She said it has caused her husband anger and forced her children to watch her "cry and shut down because I’m reliving this moment 24-7." 

►Jane Doe 5, then 77, said Winslow made a lewd gesture to her at a local gym in February 2019, when he was out on bail while awaiting trial for other charges. The jury in June 2019 convicted him of misdemeanor lewd conduct.

“This is somebody who has been allowed to utilize his financial privilege and celebrity to evade jail while awaiting trial, which is when he victimized me,” Jane Doe 5 said Wednesday. “It shows this is a defendant who does not learn from his mistakes, who shows no respect to our laws.”

Winslow has been in jail without bail since March 2019 — time that will count toward his sentence.

He earned about $40 million during his NFL career after starring at the University of Miami. Before that he grew up in San Diego County, where his namesake father became a Hall of Fame tight end for the San Diego Chargers. Winslow Sr., 63, attended his son’s legal proceedings throughout the case. He previously told the court in a letter that his son is a “good man with a huge heart” but is battling depression and is “in greater need of rehabilitation than punishment.”

At trial in 2019, when Winslow was fighting the charges, his attorneys portrayed the women as mistaken, out to get his money or that the sex was consensual, not rape.

After his convictions, the strategy changed because the law allows more leeway to use mental health as a mitigating factor to reduce his punishment. They said he possibly sustained more than 1,000 blows to his head during his football career, including in college and high school. They also said he has frontal lobe damage and symptoms associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is linked to football head trauma.

His attorney, Marc Carlos, noted Wednesday that the frontal lobe is linked to impulse control. He called his client’s behavior in these cases “head-scratching" and said he needed treatment for his mental health.

"Imagine wearing a helmet, putting a helmet on and run into a brick wall from five feet away," Carlos told the judge. "Do that every day for 10 years, and that was what Mr. Winslow was dealing with. You’ve got a 260-pound muscled athlete who on every play of the game is suffering some sort of head trauma."

Winslow’s wife filed for divorce after he was convicted in his first trial in 2019. They have two children: a son, now 10, and a daughter, age 7.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: bschrotenb@usatoday.com