FSU's Winston Declares For Draft As University Responds To Federal Civil Lawsuit

Jan 7, 2015

Credit marsmettn / flickr.com

Update 7:43 p.m.: Florida State University football quarterback Jameis Winston is trading in his college career for a professional paycheck, and he's leaving FSU with a lawsuit on its hands.

In a statement issued through his agency, Winston thanks the university and fans for making his time in Tallahassee, “the best time of my life.”

The FSU quarterback is widely considered a top draft pick. His only defeat in two seasons at Florida State came recently-- with a playoff loss to Oregon on New Year’s Day.

As Winston made his professional plans public Wednesday Florida State University learned its legal woes related to a 2012 sexual assault allegation against Winston, are not over.

FSU is named as the defendant in a federal lawsuit stemming from claims it mishandled the claims against the star quarterback, who was never charged with a crime nor any violations of the university's code-of-conduct.

According to the lawsuit by the alleged victim, the university failed to timely investigate the allegations and didn’t protect her. But in a lengthy, and strongly-worded statement, FSU President John Thrasher vigorously defended the school.

RESPONSE FROM FSU PRESIDENT JOHN THRASHER:

Florida State University is disappointed to learn of this lawsuit.  The University has not yet been served and will need time to review the complaint fully before we respond in detail. 

After a year of selective news leaks and distorted coverage, Florida State looks forward to addressing these meritless allegations in court. Evidence will show that through its confidential Victim Advocate Program, FSU did everything the plaintiff asked for and that the assertions FSU shirked its Title IX obligations are false.

In all, the University asked the plaintiff or her attorneys at least nine times over nearly 20 months to give a statement that would enable a Title IX investigation. FSU did not ignore the complainant or its obligations under Title IX.

FSU’s handling of this matter was driven by the plaintiff’s deliberate and informed choice on how to proceed, not by Athletics. 

The University’s victim advocates were at the plaintiff's side within hours of the encounter and continued meeting with or contacting her or her representatives at least 30 times over the ensuing year. Besides offering emotional support and arranging numerous academic accommodations on her behalf, they informed the plaintiff and her attorney five times about the right to pursue a student disciplinary action. The first was in December 2012--before the Athletics Department ever became aware of the allegation--and the last was in December 2013.

Then, after the plaintiff hired new attorneys, the University extended the invitation four more times before her attorney finally consented to a Title IX interview in early August, after making FSU wait because they were unavailable in the summer months.

The University went to great lengths to protect the rights and integrity of the student conduct code process. It compiled more than 1,000 pages of documents and turned the matter over to a former Florida State Supreme Court judge, who was briefed on all procedures and rules.

He held a two-day hearing, heard from the plaintiff, the respondent and 10 witnesses before releasing his decision far earlier than the mandatory deadline of January 5.

For many years Florida State University has had excellent victim-centered policies with regard to sexual violence.  The University recently conducted an exhaustive review and took additional steps to further ensure it employs the very best practices.

Florida State University does not tolerate sexual violence in any form, regardless of who the alleged perpetrator might be.

FSU, along with scores of other universities across the country, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for the way it handles sexual assault claims. Winston is expected to be drafted in the first round.

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Update 5:08 p.m.: Florida State University is refuting claims it failed to property respond to sexual assault allegations against its star quarterback.

The alleged victim has filed a federal lawsuit against the university stemming from a 2012 encounter with football quarterback, Jameis Winston who was never charged with a crime.

In a statement, University President John Thrasher says, "FSU’s handling of this matter was driven by the plaintiff’s deliberate and informed choice on how to proceed."

The lawsuit comes on the same day as Winston, who is not included in the lawsuit, declared for the 2015 NFL Draft.

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Original Story:  Florida State University football quarterback Jameis Winston could be trading in his college career for a professional paycheck. Meanwhile the university itself has been hit with a federal lawsuit.

According to ESPN, Winston’s father told the sports broadcaster his son wanted to wait until Monday’s College Football Championship game to announce the move. Antonor Winston says Jameis Winston arrived at a firm resolution Tuesday evening.  

Winston released a statement through the agency that is now representing him:

"To the fans, I can't thank you enough for the support you showed me and the team over the last three seasons; it was a humbling experience to bring the Championship back to Tallahassee for you all to enjoy.

"To my teammates, it's been an incredible opportunity to play with the most impressive collection of talent and people the game has seen; you all have been there for me through the highs and lows and the relationships we have formed extend well beyond the field. For this, I thank you.

"To the coaching staff and especially Coach [Jimbo] Fisher, I am forever grateful for the ways you developed me as a player and a person as I have grown over the years. I knew I made the right decision to come to Florida State four years ago and couldn't be happier with this choice as I write this today.

The FSU quarterback is widely considered a top draft pick. His only defeat in two seasons at Florida State came recently-- with a playoff loss to Oregon State on New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reports Florida State University was slapped Wednesday with a lawsuit stemming from claims it mishandled a 2012 sexual assault allegation against Winston. He was never charged with a crime and a judge recently ruled there was not enough evidence that Winston violated the school’s conduct code.

The federal lawsuit claims FSU violated federal rules related to the way it handled the allegations against Winston. The university’s athletics department was aware the Tallahassee Police Department was investigating the case, but according to the lawsuit by the alleged victim, the university did not take any action to protect her rights.

The university just became aware of the lawsuit and WFSU, along with other media outlets are seeking a response.

This story will be updated later on.