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Florida State files motion to dismiss suit by Jameis Winston's accuser

Florida State Seminoles quaterback Jameis Winston leaves his student conduct code hearing this month in Tallahassee. The hearing continued Wednesday morning. [Getty Images]
Florida State Seminoles quaterback Jameis Winston leaves his student conduct code hearing this month in Tallahassee. The hearing continued Wednesday morning. [Getty Images]
Published Mar. 10, 2015

Florida State University has filed a motion to dismiss the Title IX lawsuit brought by Jameis Winston's accuser.

FSU's motion said that the university followed the federal gender-equity law by providing counseling for the woman, Zephyrhills' Erica Kinsman, and that it didn't have anything to do with the harassment she received or her decision to leave school.

"Nothing about FSU's handling of this matter was unreasonable …" the filing said.

The motion, filed late Monday evening, was FSU's response to a federal lawsuit filed in January in the U.S. District Court's Middle District of Florida.

Its 23 pages document some of the steps FSU said it took to help Kinsman, including the use of two victim's advocates, who are bound by confidentiality laws.

"Far from being deliberately indifferent to Kinsman, FSU provided her the services of its confidential Victim Advocate Program within hours of her alleged sexual assault and continuously thereafter …" FSU's filing said.

The document alleges that FSU didn't know about the allegations until November 2013 — 11 months after the off-campus encounter at a Tallahassee apartment. It argues that the report to campus police wasn't appropriate notice because no alleged perpetrator was identified. Kinsman didn't identify Winston — who was not yet the Seminoles' star quarterback — as a suspect until a month after the incident, in January 2013.

FSU's filing comes two months after Kinsman sued the school. Kinsman — then identified only as Jane Doe — alleged that FSU violated Title IX with its "clearly unreasonable response" and by becoming a hostile environment. "As a result of FSU's deliberate indifference," her suit said, Kinsman left school.

FSU disputed that point.

"Regrettably, the media's reporting of Kinsman's allegations led to an Internet and social media backlash — harassment that FSU did not cause, in an environment that FSU could not control …" the university's filing said. "Here, of course, FSU controls neither the Internet nor the vicious trolls who allegedly used it to harass Kinsman."

Her suit argues that coach Jimbo Fisher and senior associate athletics director Monk Bonasorte knew about the accusations but concealed them from school administrators to protect the program and the eventual Heisman Trophy winner.

"Plaintiff's inability to attend classes at FSU in favor of men's athletics is exactly the result that Title IX was designed to prevent," her suit said.

The university said neither employee knew the allegation might have been student-on-student harassment and that neither is an "appropriate person" under Title IX. The anti-discrimination law requires colleges to investigate allegations of sexual violence and harassment or risk losing federal funding.

FSU acknowledged it began investigating the allegations in January 2014, about a month after the State Attorney's Office decided not to charge Winston with a crime, citing a lack of evidence and Kinsman's spotty memory. The school's investigation stalled because Winston wouldn't agree to be interviewed and Kinsman would not give another statement, the filing said.

In December, a retired Florida Supreme Court justice ruled that there wasn't a preponderance of evidence to charge Winston with breaking the school's honor code. Winston, a possible Bucs target with the No. 1 overall pick, has denied all wrongdoing.

A settlement is not expected, according to separate court documents entered Monday. The trial term is scheduled to begin in August 2016.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is also investigating FSU's handling of the case and whether it complied with Title IX. Since that inquiry began in April, the number of schools under federal investigation has roughly doubled, to about 100.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes on Twitter.