The woman who accused former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of sexual assault after a sexual encounter in December of 2012 has filed a federal Title IX suit against Florida State University, accusing the university of "deliberate violation of [its] duties under Title IX."
As we have stated previously, Winston is unlikely to face civil charges in this matter, as it is extremely unlikely that Winston would be found responsible of wrongdoing given the nature of the evidence in the case.
Because of the results of the rape kit examination and toxicological analysis conducted within hours of the encounter, there is more evidence in this case than is over 90% of sexual assault cases, and all of that evidence is either neutral or contradicts the accuser’s story.
The case against Florida State, however, does not depend on the veracity of the accusation and instead hinges on procedural matters. The question at issue is whether FSU adequately fulfilled its federally mandated responsibilities to process sexual assault allegations as stated in Title IX of the US Department of Education Amendments of 1972.
This lawsuit alleges that “in January 2013, officials in the FSU Athletics Department and the FSU football program chose to conceal the allegations of rape against their prize recruit from the rest of the university and specifically from the Title IX Coordinator and SRR Office in deliberate violation of their duties under Title IX.”
The suit also alleges that “On October 25, 2013, Plaintiff’s victim advocate informed her that a second woman had come forward and reported being raped by Winston,” a statement that differs from an earlier New York Times report that a second woman had sought counseling after a sexual encounter with Winston although, according to the Times, “the woman did not call it rape—she did not say ‘no.’”
The filing (fully available here) impugns the FSU Code of Conduct hearing conducted by former Florida Supreme Court chief justice Major Harding, asserting that “The hearing contravened the standards and requirements of the FSU Student Conduct Code by deliberately not employing its definition of consent, by failing to weigh evidence, and by ignoring the preponderance of the evidence.”
The complaint summarizes the basic case against Florida State as follows:
Plaintiff was subjected to the discrimination because of FSU’s deliberate indifference to known acts of harassment, sexual violence, discrimination and retaliation, including, without limitation:
. (a) FSU’s deliberate decision not to investigate and address Winston’s rape of Plaintiff for close to two years so that Winston’s college football career would be unaffected;
. (b) The deliberate decisions of the FSU Police, FSU Athletics Department and other FSU officials – all of whom had authority to take corrective action under Title IX – not to report the rape to FSU’s Title IX Coordinator and SRR Office so that Winston’s college football career would be unaffected;
. (c) FSU’s deliberate decision to hinder the Tallahassee Police and university investigations of Plaintiff’s rape so that Winston’s FSU football career would be unaffected;
. (d) FSU’s deliberate decision not to provide Plaintiff with safety measures and accommodations so that she could safely pursue her studies;
. (e) FSU’s deliberate decision not to contact Plaintiff for almost one year except for advocate Pruett’s confidential emotional support;
. (f) FSU’s deliberate decisions not to comply with its own policies on Sexual Misconduct, Title IX and sexual harassment, as well as the legal requirements of Title IX as set forth in the OCR’s 2001 Guidance and the DCL;
. (g) FSU’s deliberate coordination with Tallahassee Police, Winston and Jansen;
. (h) FSU’s deliberate decisions to do nothing to eliminate the sexual assault risk posed by Winston, prevent its recurrence and address its effects, so that Winston’s football career would be unaffected;
. (i) FSU’s deliberate decisions to twice terminate the SRR Code of Conduct proceedings to which Plaintiff had agreed; and
(j) FSU’s non-compliance at Winston’s SRR hearing with its own standards, definition of consent and required weighing of the evidence, which left Winston undisciplined and playing football and Plaintiff permanently unable to return to FSU.
The fact that FSU athletic department officials did not immediately report the accusation against Winston to the university’s Title IX office will be central to this case. The complaint alleges that this was part of a conspiracy to protect an athlete and the athletic department, which is significantly harder to prove.
One point of contention is bound to be the complaint’s assertion that FSU never investigated the allegations “for close to two years,” as FSU will almost assuredly argue that the athletic department’s decision to interview the two eyewitnesses was a legally sufficient investigation, albeit not by the school’s Title IX office.