Twice-delayed, the student code of conduct hearing involving current Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and the former FSU student who accused him of raping her is expected to begin at noon ET Tuesday.
That, ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach writes, is “barring another delay or court-ordered injunction.”
“We intend to put an end to this,” Winston’s advisor/attorney David Cornwell told the Orlando Sentinel of a hearing that, at his behest, has been delayed twice in nearly a month.
The original hearing was scheduled for the Week of Nov. 17 but was pushed back to Dec. 1 after Cornwell requested a delay so that his client could have the time to prepare for it. Less than a week later, it was pushed back 24 more hours to Dec. 2.
Winston will be facing up to four student code of conduct violations — two for sexual misconduct, two for endangerment — in connection to the alleged sexual assault of the FSU student in December of 2012. The redshirt sophomore, who’s likely in his final season as a player at the collegiate level, could be looking at anywhere from a verbal/written reprimand all the way up to suspension/expulsion from school. Ultimate authority for punishment, however, belongs to the university’s president; John Thrasher, an FSU graduate, took over as president in September of this year.
A former Florida Supreme Court Justice, 79-year-old Major Harding, will preside over the hearing. While he’s currently a practicing attorney in Tallahassee, the North Carolina native and Virginia School of Law graduate has no known ties to FSU.
As part of the university’s procedures, Winston will be compelled to attend the hearing. He will not be required, however, to answer questions even as he is permitted to give an opening statement and cross-examine witnesses. Unless given explicit permission by Harding, his attorney/advisor, Cornwell, will not be allowed to speak or argue on his client’s behalf.
Provided it doesn’t interrupt the hearing process, Winston can consult with Cornwell, who has confirmed that he will attend the hearing at Winston’s request. There’s also the possibility the accuser (the alleged victim) won’t be in the same room as the accused (Winston).
“Usually in sex cases,” Tallahassee defense attorney Tim Jansen, who represented Winston during the police investigation into the allegations, told the Sentinel when it comes to FSU protocol, “the accuser has the right to file a motion within 24 hours of the hearing not to be in the same room or to have it done by video so she doesn’t have to face the accused.”
Whether the accuser has filed such a motion is unknown.
FSU’s student code of conduct states that a decision letter will be sent to the student or students within 10 class days from the conclusion of the hearing; it does allow, though, for more time if additional consideration of evidence and deliberation is required. Each party would also have the right to appeal any decision.
As far as the timeframe of 10 class days, FSU’s fall semester ends Dec. 12, while the spring semester classes don’t begin until Jan. 7. As reported earlier, that timeframe is key when it comes to the football component of the hearing equation.
If the hearing concludes on Dec. 5 or later, any decision might not be rendered until after the national championship game. A period of 10 class days from that date would mean a decision would not be due until Jan. 13, one day after the championship game.
According to Schlabach, the hearing is expected to last one or two days. How long after that for a decision to be rendered is unknown. But, if you do the calendar math — an appeal can take as long as 60-90 days, and any punishment rendered wouldn’t be imposed during the appeals process — you can see where this is potentially, or even likely, headed.
The hearing involving Winston, who was never charged in connection to the alleged rape because there was not enough evidence to prove the sexual encounter wasn’t consensual, will commence four days before FSU squares off with Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game, with a win (very likely) sending the Seminoles to the first-ever College Football Playoff.