SAN DIEGO (AP) — Former NFL player Kellen Winslow II was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in prison for multiple rapes and other sexual offenses against five women in Southern California, including one who was homeless when he attacked her in 2018.
The 37-year-old son of San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow appeared via videoconference at the hearing in San Diego Superior Court in Vista, a city north of San Diego. He declined to comment before his sentence, saying his lawyers had advised him not to speak.
“In the future, I do plan to tell my story," said the former Cleveland Browns star, once the highest-paid tight end in the NFL.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Blaine Bowman said Winslow can only be described in “two words and that is a sexual predator."
The judge said he preyed on women who were especially vulnerable, befriending a homeless woman, picking up a 54-year-old hitchhiker, and attacking a teen after she had passed out at a party.
Bowman called them “brazen" crimes. He noted that Winslow continued to prey on women even after his first arrest. He performed a lewd act in front of a 77-year-old woman at a gym while hiding his GPS monitoring ankle bracelet with a towel. He also exposed himself to a 57-year-old neighbor who was gardening despite having a bike app that gave his location at the time.
“The vulnerability of the victims was no accident," Bowman said. “It was the type of victim that you sought out yourself because you felt that perhaps they wouldn’t report the crime" or “wouldn't be deemed credible by the jurors."
The 14-year-sentence was the maximum allowed under a plea deal. He was convicted of forcible rape, rape of an unconscious person, assault with intent to commit rape, indecent exposure, and lewd conduct in public.
Four of the women gave statements Wednesday, including one victim who had the prosecutor read hers. All described suffering for years after their attacks from fear and emotional trauma.
The woman who was homeless and raped in Winslow's home town of Encinitas, a beach community north of San Diego, called into the hearing via video conference from the San Diego County District Attorney's office, where she watched the proceedings with another victim.
She said since she was raped she has had trouble raising her head and walking. She feels afraid constantly, and checks under beds and in closets when she stays at her brother's house.
“I don’t ever feel safe inside or outside," she said. “You brought so much damage to my life."
Once a first-round NFL draft pick for the Cleveland Browns, Winslow played also for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and the New York Jets. He earned more than $40 million over his 10 seasons. He was injured in a motorcycle accident and left the NFL in 2013.
“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,” the 77-year-old woman said Wednesday. “It shows this is a defendant who does not learn from his mistakes, who shows no respect to our laws.”
Winslow's attorney Marc Carlos said he suffered from head trauma from the many blows to his head playing football, which can only explain why he “went off the rails," going from a star athlete to a convicted sexual predator. He said his client has accepted responsibility and intends to get help.
Winslow was first convicted after a trial in June 2019 when jurors found him guilty of forcible rape and two misdemeanors — indecent exposure and a lewd act in public.
The same jurors failed to agree on other charges, including the alleged 2018 rape of the 54-year-old hitchhiker, and the 2003 rape of the unconscious 17-year-old high school senior who went to a party with him when he was 19.
Before he was retried on those charges, he pleaded guilty to raping the teen and sexual battery of the hitchhiker. Those pleas spared him the possibility of life in prison.
The father of two, whose wife filed for divorce after he was convicted, had faced up to 18 years in prison for all the charges.
But both sides agreed to reduce the sexual battery charge to assault with intent to commit rape last month. That reduced the maximum sentence to 14 years.
Winslow must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.