Florida State University has opened a formal disciplinary investigation of quarterback Jameis Winston, stemming from a 2012 incident in which he allegedly sexually assaulted another student.
Walt Bogdanich of The New York Times reported Thursday that school officials interviewed the woman in August to ascertain her side of the incident, which she reported to authorities nearly two years ago.
“We thought it went very well,” the victim's attorney, John Clune, told the Times. “The school seemed to take it very seriously.”
Winston, who won the 2013 Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to a BCS national championship as a freshman, is alleged to have sexually assaulted the woman on Dec. 7, 2012. While police were notified of the incident shortly thereafter, nearly an entire year passed before the Tallahassee Police Department opened a formal investigation.
Winston's family advisor David Cornwell was quick to fire back with a statement via John Taylor of CollegeFootballTalk:
The real story here is that after her Colorado attorneys created a media frenzy alleging that Florida State University failed to comply with its Title IX obligations, Ms. (name redacted) had to come clean and admit that she previously refused to cooperate with the university’s Title IX inquiry.
Now that she has finally done her Title IX interview, this is the fourth time Ms. (name redacted) has told her story. We anticipate the same conclusion that followed her previous three statements to the Tallahassee Police Department, Florida State Attorney’s Office and in the FSU Code of Student Conduct hearing. Jameis Winston did not sexually assault Ms. (name redacted).
While police later found there was not enough evidence for an indictment, the investigation was fraught with inconsistencies and public disapproval. At the center of the criticism was state attorney Willie Meggs, whose laid-back demeanor rubbed many the wrong way. Meggs joked with reporters and seemed downright jovial at times, leading one female reporter to exclaim "come on" in disgust, which was picked up by the boom mics for the television broadcast.
That led to increased questions about how seriously investigators took the claims, which were exacerbated by the case's curious timeline. Meggs later distanced himself from the investigation in an April interview with Bogdanich, criticizing police for failing to identify possible witnesses and multiple other errors that made Winston impossible to indict.
“They just missed all the basic fundamental stuff that you are supposed to do,” Meggs said.
Winston, though staying largely silent on the matter, has maintained his innocence. He has retained two attorneys, first Tim Jansen and more recently the high-powered David Cornwell, who have primarily handled public comments.
"He's absolutely innocent, and I'm glad and pleased that Willie did a full investigation and found the same thing we did," Jansen told reporters last December, via ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach. "There's no evidence. He could not go forward with any charges."
Cornwell told Bogdanich he expects the university report to yield the same result. Florida State opened its case under the Title IX law, which forces schools to self-investigate allegations of sexual assault regardless of whether criminal charges are filed. According to Schlabach and Jared Shanker of ESPN.com, the law requires a "preponderance of evidence" for Winston to face any discipline.
FSU investigation of Jameis Winston is notable, much lower burden of proof in Title IX case than the state: http://t.co/HToYNTEG2v— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) September 4, 2014
"There are some good people who want to do the right thing on one side of campus, then you have one of the most powerful athletic departments in the country on the other side of the campus with the No. 1 football team in the nation," Clune told Bogdanich. "I think we will find out pretty quickly how that struggle will shake out.”
Winston will continue to be eligible to play football while the investigation is ongoing. The sophomore threw for 370 yards and had two total touchdowns in the Seminoles' 37-31 season-opening win over Oklahoma State last Saturday. He came into the 2014 season considered the favorite to become just the second player in history to win two Heisman Trophies.
Florida State is the No. 1 team in the country in both the USA Today and Associated Press polls. The Seminoles host The Citadel on Saturday as they attempt to win their 18th consecutive game.
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