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Erica Kinsman sues NFL prospect Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston, right, and his attorney David Cornwell arrive at Florida State's Materials Research building for his student code on conduct hearing. [AP photo]
Published Apr. 17, 2015

Former Florida State University star quarterback Jameis Winston was sued Thursday in the latest — and expected — development in a sexual assault case dating back more than two years.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in Orange County, Erica Kinsman of Zephyrhills accused Winston of sexual battery, assault, false imprisonment and intentionally inflicting "emotional distress" during their December 2012 off-campus sexual encounter in Tallahassee.

The lawsuit comes after multiple investigations ended without criminal charges for Winston, who has maintained his innocence. It also comes two weeks before the first round of the NFL draft, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to choose Winston with the No. 1 overall pick. The lawsuit isn't expected to affect that decision.

Kinsman is seeking damages in excess of $15,000 and a jury trial, alleging that Winston's conduct "went beyond all possible bounds of decency and was shocking, atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society."

"Jameis Winston . . . has proven time and time again to be an entitled athlete who believes he can take what he wants," Kinsman's attorney, John Clune, said in a statement. "He took something here that he was not entitled to and he hurt someone. There are consequences for that behavior and since others have refused to hold him accountable, our client will."

Winston has never been arrested or charged with a crime because of the accusations. The State Attorney's Office declined to press charges in December 2013, citing a lack of evidence and Kinsman's "problematic" testimony.

A year later, FSU held its own hearing to determine whether Winston violated the school's code of conduct. A retired Florida Supreme Court justice, Major Harding, also chose not to charge Winston because he couldn't find the credibility of either student "substantially stronger" than the other.

Winston's attorney, David Cornwell, did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but he has previously threatened a countersuit if Kinsman filed litigation.

"With the support of her family, (Kinsman) is prepared for this fight and for the counterclaims and the smear campaigns that will surely follow," Clune said.

Thursday's suit reveals little new information about the case.

It said that the cab driver who took her, Winston and two teammates to Winston's apartment observed that she "appeared to be impaired." Once at the apartment, Kinsman says FSU defensive end Chris Casher wanted to participate in the sexual encounter and that Winston raped her, first in the bedroom, then in the bathroom.

The suit said Kinsman suffered loss of sleep, flashbacks, severe anxiety and depression, which hurt her education and her "enjoyment of life."

The Tampa Bay Times generally does not name victims or possible victims of sexual assault. But Kinsman has told her story and identified herself publicly in a documentary about sexual assaults on college campuses, The Hunting Ground.

Winston declared for the draft in January after his redshirt sophomore season. He finished his college career as one of the most accomplished players in FSU history. He compiled a 26-1 record as a starter, won the 2013 Heisman Trophy, as college football's top player, and led the Seminoles to their third national championship.

In January, Kinsman filed a federal lawsuit alleging that FSU failed to follow the gender-equity law Title IX in its actions and investigations of the case. That suit — also filed in Orange County — is scheduled for trial in August 2016. The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is also investigating FSU's handling of the case. Kinsman left FSU after the allegation became public in November 2013.

Thursday's lawsuit was filed in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court in Orange County, but Clune said it could be refiled in Tampa, if Winston becomes a Buccaneer.

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

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