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Jameis Winston's adviser continues to challenge FSU's investigation

Jameis Winston is accused of breaking four conduct code violations, including sexual conduct without consent. He has not been arrested or charged with a crime. [AP photo]
Jameis Winston is accused of breaking four conduct code violations, including sexual conduct without consent. He has not been arrested or charged with a crime. [AP photo]
Published Oct. 14, 2014

Jameis Winston's adviser continued to question how Florida State University is investigating the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in a letter sent to the school Tuesday.

David Cornwell wrote that the school's latest deadlines and procedures in the investigation of months-old sexual assault allegations are "unacceptable." He made his latest claim in a letter obtained Tuesday afternoon by the Tampa Bay Times.

FSU told the Seminoles star quarterback last week that a neutral hearing officer — one of three former Florida Supreme Court justices — would decide whether Winston broke the school's code of conduct in a December 2012 sexual encounter. He's accused of breaking four conduct code violations, including sexual conduct without consent. He has not been arrested or charged with a crime.

Cornwell argued that FSU has violated its own policies and federal guidelines on how to handle sexual assault allegations.

Federal guidelines call for most cases to be investigated in about 60 days, and Cornwell questioned why the accuser didn't agree to an interview until August. FSU has said it tried multiple times to get the woman to cooperate — a charge her attorneys have denied.

"Mr. Winston requires a full explanation from FSU explaining its rationale for ignoring the (Office for Civil Rights) and its own policies after (the accuser) repeatedly rebuffed FSU's attempts to implement those policies," Cornwell wrote. "On its face, this decision seems motivated to protect FSU's interests and respond to media pressure, not to protect Mr. Winston's interests. If there is a better explanation, Mr. Winston is entitled to hear it."

FSU told Winston last week that he had five days to schedule an information session to learn more about the case and the upcoming procedures. Cornwell wrote to FSU that he'd address those points in later correspondence.

The back-and-forth comes as FSU is under great scrutiny from multiple sides — two sets of high-powered attorneys, plus a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

University spokeswoman Browning Brooks said last week that the school made the rare move to use an outside arbiter "to ensure an absolutely fair and impartial process, and to avoid any conflict created by the ongoing federal investigation and threatened litigation."

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