Federal civil rights investigators are reviewing Florida State University’s handling of the rape allegations brought against Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, USA Today reported Thursday night.
FSU officials confirmed that the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights had opened an investigation into “whether its handling of the Jameis Winston rape allegations violated Title IX laws,” the newspaper reported on its website.
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination at schools receiving federal funds, including athletic programs.
Florida law enforcement authorities closed their case against Winston last December after State Attorney Willie Meggs announced the flaws in the female accuser’s story made it virtually impossible to bring a rape conviction.
The alleged victim, a FSU student, told authorities that she had been raped on Dec. 7,. 2012, at Winston’s off-campus apartment. Meggs said he and his staff “did not feel we had sufficient evidence to prove that it was not consensual.”
A written statement by the alleged victim released by police indicated that she told police that she was at a local college bar with her friends drinking shots, and “next thing I know I’m in the back of a taxi with a random guy I have never met.”
USA Today reported Thursday that the woman filed a complaint with the feds in early March. As an alleged rape victim, she is not being identified.
FSU officials did not comment directly about the federal investigation, but issued the following statement to USA Today:
“State and federal privacy laws prohibit the university from commenting on any individual case. Generally speaking, students at any time have the right to avail themselves of the Student Code of Conduct, which sets high expectations for the university community and provides a way to adjudicate grievances.
“The Code of Conduct imposes no time limits on when an aggrieved student may file a complaint or when new information can be considered. The university evaluates all information it receives and acts on it when appropriate. We take seriously the trust and privacy of the entire university community.”
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The woman’s attorney, Baine Kerr, who specializes in Title IX cases, told USA Today that FSU officials had not spoken to his client, who has since left the university.
“The university went for the better part of a year without requesting her cooperation in any proceedings,” he said. “She’s consistently been willing to cooperate and assist a university investigation. She remains so.”
Later Thursday, USA Today reported that FSU updated its statement to say, “Mr. Kerr’s representations to USA TODAY about our treatment of his client are flat-out false.
“It is our consistent practice to inform complainants at numerous steps in the counseling process about their options to pursue either criminal or university proceedings — or both.
“We empower complainants by giving great weight to their wishes about what process to pursue and when. We place no time limits on when an aggrieved student may file a complaint or when new information can be considered. We take seriously the safety, trust and privacy of the entire university community.”
Winston, through his attorney, has repeatedly said the sex was consensual and had affidavits from witnesses in Winston’s apartment that night to confirm it.
The website Deadspin.com reported Thursday that Winston had been interviewed by FSU administrators weeks after he led the football team to its national championship victory over Auburn.
The Tallahassee Police Department, which came under intense criticism for its investigation, turned the case over to Meggs on Nov. 12, 2013, after several media inquiries.
Although the accuser identified Winston as her alleged attacker in January 2013, the police failed to obtain any DNA evidence until Meggs got involved.
This story was originally published April 4, 2014 12:01 AM.