The U.S. Department of Education has placed Florida State University’s handling of the rape case against star quarterback Jameis Winston under federal investigation by its Office for Civil Rights arm. The probe reportedly seeks to determine whether the university violated any federal laws in its dealings with the case. Specifically, investigators are targeting a law known as Title IX, which requires institutions to investigate sexual assault allegations.
Winston allegedly raped a female Florida State student in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2012. Almost one year later, the Florida State Attorney’s office decided not to bring the redshirt freshman up on charges due to insufficient evidence. Weeks later, Winston won the Heisman Trophy and the Florida State Seminoles won the National Championship.
The case, however, has now resurfaced. It is now being reported that soon after Florida State’s national title game, Winston and two of his teammates were questioned by university officials in what has been deemed a Title IX investigation related to the sexual assault charges. A campus judiciary body reportedly concluded that those two teammates, Ronald Darby and Chris Casher, had violated the school’s code of conduct policy by watching Winston having sex with the woman.The two now face a slew of charges that, while unrelated to criminal law, could lead to punishment ranging from a simple letter of reprimand to expulsion from the university. The two men reportedly gave similar statements during the original investigation.
Winston was not charged by the university with any misconduct. Both Darby and Casher saw playing time last season. Casher, a freshman defensive end and Mobile, Ala. Native, saw time as a backup and Darby, a sophomore cornerback and five star recruit from Maryland, won the ACC’s Rookie of the Year in 2012 and started last season.
After the charges against Winston were dropped, the alleged victim said she would continue to pursue the allegations and one of her attorneys, Patricia Carroll was adamant about pressing on.
“I want heads to roll. Absolutely you’re going to see a civil suit,” Carroll said in an interview. “You can’t have law enforcement that is not held accountable. The family is proceeding with civil action against the police department and possibly the university.”
Winston’s accuser was a sophomore at the time of the original investigation and left school after the news hit the Tallahassee campus, claiming she received constant death threats on social media. The woman also said that Florida State did not contact her regarding an independent investigation, which the school would be required to do under Title IX law. Another of the alleged victim’s attorneys, Blaine Kerr, who deals exclusively with Title IX law, said she has been waiting for the university to conduct its own inquiry.
“The university went for the better part of a year without requesting her cooperation in any proceedings,” Kerr told USA Today. “She’s consistently been willing to cooperate and assist a university investigation. She remains willing to respond to any reasonable request for further information from the university so long as her safety is protected.”
Florida State University officials reportedly denied Kerr’s claims, saying “Mr. Kerr’s representations to USA Today about our treatment of his client are flat-out false.” Winston has maintained his innocence and said the sex between him and the accuser was consensual. According to reports, he did not answer questions about the alleged rape in the university’s investigation.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat