Yesterday news broke that Florida State University is under federal investigation for their handling of the Jameis Winston sexual assault case last year. Per the USA Today, Winston’s accuser filed a federal grievance in March that FSU had violated Title IX in its handling of the Winston case.
Sexual harassment and violence are considered forms of sex discrimination under the 1972 federal law, which requires colleges and universities that receive federal funds to investigate claims of sexual assault and provide a timely and impartial grievance procedure to resolve those claims. Non-compliance with the law can result in the department revoking federal funding, although that has never happened.
Winston is accused of sexually assaulting a Florida State student in December of 2012. The case was initially handled by Tallahassee police and was not turned over to the State Attorney’s office until news of the investigation became public midway through the 2013 football season. Despite the media circus that followed, State Attorney Willie Meggs and his office did not file charges against Winston and the matter went quiet — despite the protestations of the accuser’s representation.
Now it’s back.
In the months since the State Attorney’s decision, the accuser has dropped her old representation in favor of two highly competent Title IX attorneys who filed a federal grievance on her behalf.
Per the accuser’s attorney, FSU violated her Title IX rights by waiting more than 13 months to have a hearing. Typically a hearing is expected withing 60 days of the accusation or within ten days of the completion on a legal investigation.
Neither timeline was honored in this circumstance.
Also of concern is the fact that FSU did not consult with the victim or request her cooperation through the process, at least per her attorney, Blaine Kerr.
“The university went for the better part of a year without requesting her cooperation in any proceedings,” he said. “She’s consistently been willing to cooperate and assist a university investigation. She remains so.
“She remains willing to respond to any reasonable request for further information from the university so long as her safety is protected.”
Florida State calls that charge patently false.
“It is our consistent practice to inform complainants at numerous steps in the counseling process about their options to pursue either criminal or university proceedings — or both.
“We empower complainants by giving great weight to their wishes about what process to pursue and when. We place no time limits on when an aggrieved student may file a complaint or when new information can be considered. We take seriously the safety, trust and privacy of the entire university community.”
Florida State did hold hearings in January, per Deadspin, which may have been another violation of Title IX. The school met with Winston — who did not answer questions per the the advice of his attorney — and allegedly failed to notify the complainant.
While the school found insufficient evidence to penalize Winston, two of his teammates, DE Chris Casher and CB Ronald Darby did face several charges from the school (two for Darby, three for Casher). So far this Spring Darby has been limited at practice while Casher has participated. A representative from FSU said yesterday that to his knowledge their status with the team remains unchanged.
46 other schools are also under similar investigation including Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Penn State and UConn.
We’ll have more to come as the story develops.
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