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Bucs’ Jameis Winston sued by Arizona Uber driver in alleged groping incident

The case stems from a March 2016 accusation of sexual assault.
MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) passes during the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla. on August 9, 2018. ***FOR BUCS SPECIAL SECTION***
MONICA HERNDON | Times Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) passes during the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla. on August 9, 2018. ***FOR BUCS SPECIAL SECTION***
Published Sep. 18, 2018
Updated Sep. 19, 2018

TAMPA — Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was sued Tuesday by the Arizona Uber driver who has accused him of sexual assault by groping her in March 2016.

The woman — identified only as Kate P. in the federal court papers — is seeking more than $75,000 in damages after she said Winston grabbed her crotch in the drive-through of a Mexican restaurant.

Tuesday's development comes weeks after an eight-month NFL investigation determined that he touched the woman "in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent." It also comes as Winston — who has not been criminally charged in the incident — approaches the final game of a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

RELATED: View the court papers here

"She is unimpressed by his continued lack of honesty or awareness into his behavior," Kate P.'s attorney, John Clune, said Tuesday. "Maybe a more direct financial penalty will get his attention. He needs to learn from this and have some genuine insight or pay the penalty.

"She knows that she might be just a speed bump for him in his football career, but she is not going to be a small one."

The civil lawsuit — filed in the U.S. District Court for Arizona — features little new information but reiterates previously reported details of the allegation.

When Kate P. stopped at the International Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., around 1:41 a.m., one of the men who approached her car called her "hot" and encouraged Winston to sit up front, according to the suit.

She alleged that Winston "became belligerent," swore and used racial slurs out the window during the drive. The suit said that Winston "did not appear to be very intoxicated."

After Winston requested a burrito, the woman drove him to a Mexican restaurant. She Googled Winston on her phone and recognized him as the passenger, according to the suit.

While they were waiting on his food, Winston reached over without warning, "placed his fingers between her legs and pressed them firmly against" her genitals, over her yoga pants, according to the suit. Kate P. looked at him and asked, "What's up with that?" before Winston removed his hand, according to the suit. She then dropped him off at the Camby hotel.

She texted her boyfriend that she "just got semi molested by the Tampa Bay Buc QB," and that she reported the incident to Uber the next day. Winston said he didn't recall the incident in a conversation recorded by Uber, according to the suit.

The driver said she came forward last fall not because of money but because of the growing #MeToo movement.

After denying the allegations against him for seven months, Winston released a statement after his June suspension saying "I genuinely apologize" to the woman. The NFL investigation, citing both testimony and evidence such as phone records, said her account was "consistent and credible."

An NFL statement said that in addition to missing three games, Winston, 24, will be required to "obtain a clinical evaluation and fully cooperate with any recommended program of therapeutic intervention." Failure to do so will result in additional punishment, "including a potential ban from the NFL."

Winston, who won a national championship and the Heisman Trophy at Florida State, is not allowed to have any contact with the Bucs during his three-game suspension.

Representatives for Winston and the driver previously agreed to extend the statute of limitations from March through Sept. 20. Winston fired his agents in July and terminated his agreement with the GrayRobinson legal firm a week and a half ago.

"No one appears to be advising him on this as far as we can tell," Clune said. "He is apparently making his own decisions."

Winston's publicist, EAG Sports Management CEO Denise White, declined to comment on the suit but said Winston has "solid" legal and personal representation.

"Jameis has guidance," White said. "He has a good group of professionals around him right now."

This is the second sexual assault complaint Winston has faced. Clune previously represented Zephyrhills' Erica Kinsman, who accused Winston of rape in a December 2012 encounter when both were students at FSU. Winston was never arrested or charged with a crime in that case, and a university Title IX hearing found him not responsible of wrongdoing. Winston and Kinsman settled their suit and countersuit out of court in December 2016.

Tuesday's suit mentions Winston's "history of sexually hostile behavior" and that he "appears to be no closer to understanding the impact of his conduct." It alleges that the woman's damages include "emotional distress as well as future therapy expenses" and that she is due "exemplary or punitive damages to punish and deter such conduct."

Winston's latest off-field headline comes two days after the Bucs knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles to improve to 2-0 with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting in Winston's absence. Tampa Bay hosts the Steelers on Monday night, then plays at Chicago on Sept. 30, Winston's first week back.

Winston has started 45 games for the Bucs since they chose him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. He has thrown for 11,636 yards, 69 touchdowns and 44 interceptions and was selected to the 2015 Pro Bowl.

In April, the Bucs picked up the fifth-year option that will pay him $20.9 million in 2019. It is only guaranteed against injury.

The Bucs declined to comment Tuesday.

"In the past 2½ years, my life has been filled with experiences, opportunities and events that have helped me grow, mature and learn, including the fact that I have eliminated alcohol from my life," Winston said in a statement after receiving his NFL suspension in June.

Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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