USF releases 285 pages of notes on Leavitt
Attorneys representing USF have released 285 pages of hand-written notes from the school's investigation into former football coach Jim Leavitt, but due to redactions throughout the notes, Leavitt's attorney has submitted a motion asking for access to the unredacted notes, as well as extensive documents USF has excluded from its release.
Attorney Wil Florin, who is representing Leavitt in his lawsuit against USF, wrote in the motion filed Friday that the school's "extensive albeit improper redaction" has rendered the investigators' notes "virtually incomprehensible" and "useless in their present form."
After public records requests were made by the Times and Leavitt's attorney, USF declined to release the notes from their investigation that led to the January firing of Leavitt. However, USF agreed to release some notes into evidence in a hearing last month, with several key names and portions of interviews redacted to protect their identities. USF also declined to include more than 100 documents from the evidence, usually citing attorney-client privilege. Florin's motion argues that USF "had wrongfully withheld a large number of documents" from evidence, including incorrect use of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to exclude some.
It's unknown when the matter will be heard in court -- hearings had been scheduled for this week, but Florin said those had been postponed by scheduling conflicts. Leavitt was fired Jan. 9 after USF's investigation ruled that he had committed "serious violations" of its conduct code. The investigation found that he grabbed the throat of walk-on running back Joel Miller and slapped him twice in the face during halftime of USF's Nov. 21 game against Louisville, then lied to investigators and interfered with their investigation. Leavitt has denied all the charges against him, and his lawsuit seeks part of all of the $7-million left unpaid from his contract with USF.
The 285 pages of notes give a much more thorough look at what was asked of witnesses and others who talked to witnesses, compared to the 31-page summary that was the only information released by USF at Leavitt's firing. Among the new details gleaned from the hand-written notes from USF's two investigators, attorney Thomas Gonzalez and USF vice president Sandy Lovins:
-- It was known that Leavitt had opened a bloody cut on the bridge of his nose in the same halftime when he head-butted a helmeted player, linebacker LaDre Watkins, and an interview with Florida Highway Patrol officer Benny Perez, who works security for the team, suggests he thought Leavitt had a concussion after the game as a result of the head-butting. "I didn't let him drive home because I thought he had a concussion," Lovins' notes from the interview with Perez state. "I called wife and said you need to pick him up." It's unclear from the interviews whether the head-butting occurred before or after Leavitt's interaction with Miller.
-- After 75 pages of interviews, in the middle of Lovins' notes, there is a list of phrases that seem to read like summary statements, though not as emphatic as the one ultimately included in USF's investigation. They read "upon review it appears more plausible that ... the reviewers find it more credible ... when viewed in overall context , it appears most ("more" written beneath it) likely that ... could not be conclusively determined ... despite follow up or an attempt to get that info, it remains uncertain." There is no context in the notes to show what the phrases were intended to represent.
-- In an interview with Glen Besterfield, USF's associate dean for undergraduate studies, who was not in the locker room during the halftime in question, he tells investigators about a conversation with USF President Judy Genshaft. "I remember Judy saying that only thing that can take down a prez is 'docs & jocks'" the notes read.
-- The extent of protective redaction varies greatly from witness to witness -- some are identified by name throughout their testimony, even in conversations explaining the importance of maintaining their anonymity, while others are redacted in all instances.