The woman who accused Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of sexual assault in December 2012 has filed a federal civil lawsuit against university trustees. The Orlando Sentinel first reported news of the suit.
The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Orlando on Wednesday, alleges that Florida State did not properly investigate the claim and intentionally did not follow its own Title IX policies, therefore violating the accuser's Title IX rights. The university responded with a statement on Wednesday that called the allegations "meritless."
(You can read the full complaint here. Warning: Graphic content)
The accuser, who dropped out of Florida State in November 2013, argues in the lawsuit that her safety was threatened because the university "became a sexually hostile environment where her rapist roamed free and could turn up at any moment, where she became the target of death threats and vilification campaigns."
Winston has denied the allegations and was not charged in the case.
The lawsuit is solely directed at Florida State's handling of the case and names neither Winston nor the Tallahassee Police Department as a defendant.
FSU president John Thrasher issued a statement Wednesday, saying the university is "disappointed" to learn of the lawsuit." From the statement:
"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."
Winston was accused of sexual assault in December 2012. No charges were filed, but in November 2013, the state's attorney announced that it was opening an investigation into the accusation. The investigation was completed a month later, and again no charges were filed.
The quarterback faced a Student Code of Conduct case at FSU in December to determine if he violated up to four school student conduct codes. Winston was cleared by an arbitrator after a two-day hearing, which included Winston reading a five-page statement denying the allegations against him. It was the first time he publicly gave his side of the story regarding the allegations.
In October, a Fox Sports report based on its own investigation of the case alleged that FSU administrators and Tallahassee police took steps to "hide and then hinder" the Winston investigation. The Fox Sports report is cited in the lawsuit.
From the lawsuit:
"The FSU Athletics Department chose to violate school policy and not report to the FSU administration that their star recruit had been identified as the suspect in the December 7, 2012 rape investigation. This deliberate concealment of student-on-student sexual harassment to protect the football program deprived Plaintiff of her rights under Title IX and caused substantial damages."
The U.S. Department of Education is currently investigating Florida State's handling of possible Title IX investigations, including in the Winston case.
A report from The New York Times in April outlined various mistakes made by Tallahassee police and university officials during the initial investigation. In October, FSU sent a letter to its supporters detailing its handling of the case, writing that it complied with Title IX protocol.
Winston announced on Wednesday that he will not return to Florida State next season and will enter the 2015 NFL draft.
- Molly Geary