University of Florida faces a second Title IX investigation

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2016, file photo, Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway, right, runs past South Carolina linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams (4) after a reception during the first half. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2016, file photo, Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway, right, runs past South Carolina linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams (4) after a reception during the first half. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
Published Aug. 11, 2017

The federal government has opened a second Title IX investigation into the University of Florida that appears to be related to the school's handling of the Antonio Callaway case.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is already looking into a complaint from the woman who accused Callaway of sexual assault. But details from a July 28 letter sent from the federal government to UF suggest this second inquiry is coming from the opposite side — Callaway and his legal counsel.

Callaway's attorney, Huntley Johnson, politely declined to comment, and parts of the letter — obtained by the Tampa Bay Times through an open-records request — are redacted because of student-privacy laws. But it echoes some of Johnson's previous public concerns about how UF handled the case.

RELATED: A tangled quest for fairness as students accused of campus sex assault push back

The complaint argues that UF's then-associate dean had improper communication and an "improper work relationship" with the woman's attorney. Johnson has argued that the UF official, Chris Loschiavo, served as "the investigator, the prosecutor and the judge" in the case and that he did consulting work for an outside firm with ties to the complainant's attorney.

UF fired Loschiavo last August and determined he had "both a conflict of interest and a lack of independence."

The Office for Civil Rights requested information on how UF handles counter-claims. Callaway filed a counter-claim against the woman, arguing that he was the victim of sexual assault because he was high on marijuana and incapable of consent. Johnson has alleged that UF did not take that complaint seriously.

RELATED: UF fired official involved in the Antonio Callaway case

The complaint also argues that UF's investigative timeframes are too vague and its policy allows the "inconsistent treatment of the alleged victim and accused." Federal regulations require complaints to be filed within 180 days of the last allegation of discrimination; this complaint was filed Jan. 24, less than 180 days from the Callaway case's resolution.

The second federal inquiry is the latest development in a high-profile case that began with a December 2015 sexual encounter at Callaway's residence in Gainesville. The university suspended Callaway the next month as it investigated the woman's complaint. The Times typically does not name victims or possible victims of sexual assault.

The woman boycotted the August 2016 hearing because UF hired a Gators booster to preside over the student conduct hearing. In January, the Office for Civil Rights opened its first UF investigation following a complaint by her attorney, John Clune.

RELATED: Feds investigate UF's handling of Antonio Callaway Title IX case

Callaway missed all of the 2016 spring practice but was fully reinstated for the start of last season after the hearing found him not responsible for any wrongdoing. The Miami native is UF's top offensive skill player, with 1,399 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns entering his junior season.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes declined to comment on the case because of student-privacy laws but said school officials "certainly are fully cooperating with the Office for Civil Rights."

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Title IX requires schools to investigate claims of gender discrimination, including sexual assault and violence. Schools that fail to comply risk losing their federal funding.

The Office for Civil Rights is investigating sexual violence-related Title IX cases at 250 postsecondary schools, including the University of Miami and the USF. Two cases at UCF opened in May.

These inquiries can take years to resolve. The feds began looking into Florida State University's handling of a sexual assault claim against current Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston in April 2014. The investigation is still open.

Contact Matt Baker at Follow @MBakerTBTimes.