Winston hearing may not have quick resolution
Oct. 16, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The resolution to Florida State's code of conduct investigation of Jameis Winston may not come before the end of the football season despite imminent deadlines in the process.
The first deadline is Friday, when he and the woman who said he sexually assaulted her in December 2012 must strike one of three potential officials that will preside over the hearing.
But when that formal hearing will take place remains unclear.
Both sides must still present possible dates for the hearing at an information session, then the university can set a date. But once a date is set, either side could request postponements of the hearing for a variety of reasons that would have to be individually reviewed.
Once the hearing concludes, the process isn't complete.
A formal decision letter must then be sent to Winston within 10 class days after the hearing ends, but that time limit could also be extended "if additional consideration of evidence and deliberation is required," FSU spokeswoman Browning Brooks explained in an email.
Bother parties can view all materials related to the case at the information session and get details about the process and their rights.
Florida State announced last week it will use an independent official with no connection to the university for the hearing. The university selected three former Florida Supreme Court justices as possible officials, but has not publicly named them. Both sides can strike one.
Baine Kerr, one of the lawyers for the woman, took issue that all three are senior men.
"While we wish there was more diversity on the panel of potential hearing officers ... (they) are very highly qualified," Kerr said. "We intend to participate in the process and promptly meet all deadline requests from the university."
The adviser for Winston's family asked Florida State why it has chosen now to engage in the Title IX process and accuses the school of trying to protect its own interests and responding to media pressure, according to a letter obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Attorney David Cornwell notes in the letter that university and federal policy requires a timely investigation. He asks university officials why Florida State has ignored those guidelines and writes that Winston deserves a prompt explanation.
"It feels like a stall," Kerr said of Cornwell's questions. "We're becoming increasingly skeptical of the sincerity of his promise to cooperate."
Cornwell did not immediately respond Thursday to a message left at his office.
Winston was never arrested in relation to the sexual assault allegations and Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs declined to press charges against Winston last December due to a lack of evidence.
The AP does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse.
For the code of conduct of investigation, Winston is required to provide the university with times that he is available for the formal hearing, which "is scheduled according to an appropriate timeline and according to availability of the charged student, complainant, witnesses, and hearing officer/s," Brooks said in the email. The university attempts to respond to incidents in a "prompt and effective manner" Brooks said, but each side can request postponements that will be reviewed independently.
Florida State has notified Winston that the hearing will be held to determine if four sections of the code of conduct have been violated, two for sexual misconduct, two for endangerment.
While all sides navigate the process, Winston remains in good standing with the university and continues to play.
He will lead the second-ranked Seminoles against No. 5 Notre Dame in a pivotal matchup Saturday.