TAMPA — A judge Tuesday ordered USF to release unredacted notes from interviews it did in its investigation that led to football coach Jim Leavitt's firing in January.
Leavitt is suing the school over his dismissal. USF's attorneys released a redacted version of the notes in June, but Leavitt attorney Wil Florin successfully argued during an hourlong hearing that the notes should be provided to him with minimal redactions, with exceptions made for references to students' medical conditions. Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Bernard Silver also ordered that those notes could not be released to any party outside the case.
USF's attorneys are still protecting 800 documents that they argue are exempt from release because of attorney-client privilege or other reasons. Silver gave USF attorney Richard McCrea two weeks to submit new reasons why the documents, which the judge has read in his chambers, shouldn't be turned over during evidence-gathering.
"It was a good day," Florin said. "I don't understand why, if USF has nothing to hide, why they were fighting so hard to prevent us from getting these documents so the truth gets out."
Gerard Solis, USF's senior associate general counsel, issued a statement after the hearing that said USF's position is not about hiding anything but protecting students' rights. "The university's priority is to protect the privacy of our students," the statement said. "We are glad that the court's ruling (Tuesday) ensures that private student information will not be trampled upon for litigation interests."
With additional hearings upcoming, and with Leavitt's attorneys seeking depositions from many of the witnesses interviewed by USF's investigators, it could be some time before a trial begins. "We'll see how it plays out," the judge said in ending the hearing. "It's a long way between now and the ultimate resolution of this case."
Leavitt was fired after an investigation concluded that he grabbed a player by the throat and slapped him twice in the face during halftime of a game against Louisville last season. USF president Judy Genshaft said Leavitt "committed serious violations" of university policies.
Leavitt, who is not coaching this fall and seeks as much as $7 million that would have been contractually paid to him had he been fired "without cause," reiterated that he wants to get back to football but wants to see his name cleared first.
"It's very important that the truth gets out," Leavitt said. "You think I really want to do all this? No. But I have to, because I want the truth to get out. That is paramount to me."