Sunday, January 21, 2018
Colleges

U.S. investigating FSU's handling of Jameis Winston case

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether Florida State University violated federal laws in how it handled sexual assault allegations against star quarterback Jameis Winston.

The department notified all parties of the Title IX investigation Thursday, a month after receiving a complaint and the same day a Deadspin.com report raised more questions about FSU's response to the December 2012 accusations.

Deadspin reported that Winston appeared at a university conduct hearing in January, a few weeks after leading the Seminoles to their third national title. The accuser's attorneys said the woman didn't know about the hearing until after it happened.

The report raises two Title IX issues: Why did the investigation take so long, and has his accuser been able to present her side?

Title IX calls for universities to look into sexual assault accusations as a form of gender discrimination. Federal guidelines expect a resolution in about 60 days, or 10 days after a criminal investigation ends, said Brett Sokolow, the Association of Title IX Administrators' executive director.

Deadspin's time line means FSU didn't hold a hearing until 13 months after the allegations surfaced and at least five weeks after the criminal investigation ended without charges.

"The important time periods are 13 months after the university knew about the assault, 12 months after they knew the identity of the suspect, more than two months after the whole world knew about the case and two weeks after Jameis Winston played in the national championship football game," said John Clune, one of two Title IX attorneys representing Winston's accuser.

At least two FSU departments knew about the case a year before the hearing.

Allegations were first reported to university police shortly after the Dec. 7, 2012, incident. In January 2013, the Tallahassee Police Department called Winston to set up an interview. Later that day, an unnamed "Athletic Directors Assistant" called investigators to ask about the case, according to Tallahassee police emails obtained through an open records request.

The State Attorney's Office didn't learn about the accusations until 10 months later, after requests from the Tampa Bay Times and other outlets reactivated the dormant investigation.

Winston never spoke with police about the allegations, which he and his attorney have denied. And, according to Deadspin, he didn't speak with FSU about them either. Using an anonymous source, the website reported that the Heisman Trophy winner declined to answer questions at the meeting, so the school could not charge him with breaking its code of conduct.

That conduct code allows for formal and informal hearings about possible violations, and Clune said FSU did not tell the accuser about it beforehand.

In a statement to USA Today, FSU said "it is our consistent practice to inform complainants at numerous steps in the counseling process about their options to pursue either criminal or university proceedings — or both."

Title IX requires both parties to have "an equal opportunity to present relevant witnesses and other evidence." Title IX hearings have a lower burden of proof than criminal courts, and accusers must only show with 50.1 percent certainty that a violation occurred.

FSU has not publicly said what steps it took to investigate the allegations.

The school denied an open records request by the Times in November regarding possible disciplinary rulings against Winston or his accuser, who is from the Tampa Bay area. FSU said any possible records were confidential because of privacy laws, even though the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act specifically allows universities to release information about sexual assault cases. The Times does not generally name victims or suspected victims of sexual assault.

Although Winston was not charged with breaking the school's code of conduct, two of his teammates were.

Deadspin wrote that defensive lineman Chris Casher and defensive back Ronald Darby are accused of sexual conduct that "creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment" and invading privacy. Casher was also charged with recording images without permission.

The claims are consistent with testimony the pair gave to investigators in November. Violations of FSU's code of conduct can result in anything from a reprimand to expulsion.

FSU is the most recent university to receive scrutiny under Title IX, a 40-year-old anti-discrimination law. The federal government added a focus on ending on-campus sex crimes with a 2011 memo, leading to investigations or lawsuits at dozens of schools, including Michigan, Penn State and the University of Connecticut.

"I think the Department of Education is more sympathetic to victims' rights than federal courts are," said Peter Lake, the director of Stetson University's Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy.

FSU could be the subject of a lawsuit, too. One of the accuser's attorneys, Baine Kerr, said he'll monitor FSU's disciplinary hearings against all three players while he explores legal options.

"We're continuing to investigate potential claims as we have been," Kerr said.

The accuser's original Dade City-based attorney, Patricia Carroll, declined to comment. Carroll has said she is considering possible lawsuits against Tallahassee police and Winston.

Through a spokesman, the Department of Education confirmed the federal investigation but declined to provide details because of privacy laws.

Times staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this report. Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jalen Hudson came off the bench to score 17, and Chris Chiozza, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes contributed clutch baskets down the stretch as Florida rallied to upset No. 18 Kentucky 66-64 Saturday night. "We were able to win it jus...
Published: 01/20/18
Gary Trent, Duke rally past Miami with 18-0 run

Gary Trent, Duke rally past Miami with 18-0 run

CORAL GABLES — Gary Trent scored a season-high 30 and No. 5 Duke needed less than three minutes to erase a 13-point second-half deficit, scoring 18 consecutive points to overtake No. 25 Miami 83-75 on Monday night. The Blue Devils scored 15 in six po...
Published: 01/15/18

Shrine Game journal: Homecoming for Utah OL Salesi Uhatafe; Quinton Flowers works on snaps

ST. PETERSBURG — Salesi Uhatafe is back in his hometown, and though he moved to Texas when he was still a baby, it’s very much a homecoming as the former Utah offensive lineman plays in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field."I’ll probab...
Published: 01/15/18
Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — Joel Lanning has the unique distinction of being listed as an "LB/QB" on the West roster for Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.And while the former Iowa State star spent the entire practice at middle linebacker Mond...
Published: 01/15/18
Keith Jackson, leading college football broadcaster, dies at 89

Keith Jackson, leading college football broadcaster, dies at 89

Keith Jackson, the folksy voice of college football who for decades weaved backwoods wit through Saturday afternoon ABC broadcasts, died Friday night. He was 89.In a 52-year broadcasting career, Mr. Jackson covered a wide variety of sports for radio ...
Published: 01/13/18
No. 24 FSU outlasts Syracuse in double overtime

No. 24 FSU outlasts Syracuse in double overtime

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State squandered a double-digit halftime lead for the second straight game. This time, it was able to overcome that.The 23rd-ranked Seminoles scored the first six in the second overtime to propel them to a 101-90 victory over Sy...
Published: 01/13/18

Florida manhandled in paint by Ole Miss for first SEC loss

OXFORD, Miss. — Florida came into its matchup focused on stopping a talented group of Ole Miss guards.But it was the play of the frontcourt that did in the Gators on Saturday afternoon.Bruce Stevens scored 22, Deandre Burnett added 20 and Mississippi...
Published: 01/13/18
South Carolina gives Will Muschamp new $28 million deal

South Carolina gives Will Muschamp new $28 million deal

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Will Muschamp received a new six-year, $28.2 million contract after a nine-win season that culminated with a victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Muschamp’s contract was approved Friday by the school’s boar...
Published: 01/12/18
Jones: March Madness is weeks away. What’s up with college basketball?

Jones: March Madness is weeks away. What’s up with college basketball?

We’ve been a little busy lately.What with Dirk Koetter staying and Evan Longoria going. We’ve been distracted by UCF and amazed by Alabama. There has been Jon Gruden news and what is shaping up to be a very special season for the Lightning.With all t...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18
Bobby Bowden: Dadgum it, UCF has a gripe

Bobby Bowden: Dadgum it, UCF has a gripe

Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is 88 and still keeps a busy schedule of speaking engagements. On Wednesday he was in Omaha, Neb. — his fourth city in a week — to receive the Tom Osborne Legacy Award for his contributions to college football ...
Published: 01/11/18