In April of this year the attorney for the woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted by Jameis Winston two years ago called for Florida State to reopen its Title IX investigation into the incident, which was closed because the star quarterback refused to answer questions.
A few months later, however — and just as FSU kicked off its title defense — the federally-mandated probe is back on.
Another attorney for the accuser, John Clune, confirmed to both the Tampa Bay Times and USA Today that Florida State has restarted its Title IX investigation into the allegations by, finally, speaking to his client. The meeting, which took place early last month, was the first time school officials had spoken to the alleged victim.
USA Today wrote that “Clune said the lengthy interview with his client gave FSU more information than it previously had from the Tallahassee police department investigation.” Based on their interaction with the school recently, the accuser’s legal team “expect[s] that there will be code of conduct charges that will be brought” against Winston.
“There’s no basis not to bring those charges now,” Clune added.
If found to be in violation of FSU’s code of conduct. Winston could face punitive measures that range from expulsion from school all the way down to probation and a verbal reprimand. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights mandates that Title IX investigations should take no longer than 60 days.
It’s unclear if FSU officials have spoken to Winston since reopening the investigation, although that seems doubtful. It’s also unclear whether any type of punishment, if a code of conduct charge is levied, for Winston would be announced before the end of the 2014 season.
The burden of proof related to a Title IX investigation is much lower than in a criminal proceeding, though, as USA Today states that “if Winston did face code of conduct charges from the university, a decision regarding responsibility would be made based on a ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard, in accordance with federal guidelines.”
In early December of last year, following a three-week investigation, the Florida State’s Attorney office announced that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that the sexual encounter between Winston and the alleged victim was not consensual, and that no charges would be filed against the player. The state’s attorney in charge of that investigation, William Meggs, was highly critical of the Tallahassee Police Department’s investigation into the alleged rape in a New York Times report earlier this week, a report in which the university subsequently expressed its disappointment. The Tallahassee PD subsequently revised its policies when it came to handling sexual assault complaints in the wake of intense criticism it received.
In April it was reported that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched its own investigation into FSU’s handling of the case. At least for now, Clune is satisfied in the about-face FSU officials have made since.
“They assured us that the Title IX process was going to move forward,” the attorney said. “The interview went pretty well. I think it was a positive experience, and everyone felt like the university was taking it very seriously.”
Neither Winston nor his attorney have publicly addressed this latest development. In a response to the reports, the school simply stated that “[w]hile we cannot comment on any individual case, in general, complainants control the timing in our process.”