Report: Florida hired booster to judge players’ sexual assault hearing
The University of Florida appointed a booster to oversee a Title IX sexual assault hearing involving two players. As a result, the alleged victim will boycott the case, ESPN reports.
The accuser, her family and witnesses will not attend a student conduct hearing for wide receiver Antonio Callaway, one of the accused players, that is scheduled for Friday. The other accused player is former quarterback and receiver Treon Harris.
“This has been a difficult decision but as I previously indicated to you, the fact that UF has hired a football booster to adjudicate a sexual assault allegation against one of the team’s own football players is a fundamentally skewed process in which [the complainant] refuses to participate,” the accuser’s attorney wrote in a letter sent Friday morning to the university’s deputy general counsel. He added that she is “very willing” to partake in a fair disciplinary process and intends to continue as a student at Florida.
Callaway and Harris were suspended in January for violating the university’s code of conduct and not allowed on campus during that time. ESPN reports that the victim reported the sexual assault, which took place in early December, to the university but did not inform police. According to the report, Harris left the university as part of a plea deal related to the case and also had to apologize to the accuser as part of the agreement.
The appointed hearing officer in question is attorney Jake Schickel, who has degrees in political science and law from Florida and was once a trustee of the Florida law school. He is a donor to the Florida football and basketball programs, according to the report.
“To be clear, this letter is not intended to cast any aspersions about Mr. Schickel’s character or his service to his alma mater,” the accuser’s attorney wrote in another letter to Florida’s general counsel earlier this week. “However, UF should never have asked him to serve as an objective reviewer and decision-maker on this matter when the claim has been brought against a star member of the very team for which both he and his law partners have provided considerable financial support.”
“Quite frankly, short of finding a relative of Mr. Callaway, I’m not sure how UF could have found someone with more conflicts [than] Mr. Schickel,” the attorney added.
Callaway, Florida’s leading receiver last year, began practicing this week after regaining his eligibility, pending the outcome of the case.
The university issued a statement on the matter on Friday afternoon:
The University of Florida is prohibited to comment on the existence or substance of student disciplinary matters under state and federal law. However, I can tell you that our student conduct process may be handled by a hearing officer, who could be a university employee or an outside professional, or by a committee of faculty and students. Any hearing officer and all committee members are trained and vetted for their impartiality. A hearing officer or committee member would not be disqualified or lack objectivity simply because he or she had been a student athlete decades earlier or purchases athletic tickets as more than 90,000 people do each year.
Callaway’s attorney also released a statement.
Since the complainant's attorney has chosen to go to the press in this matter, we assume that he will be releasing the hundreds of pages that made up the University of Florida's investigation. We assume that he will be releasing sworn affidavits in this case. We assume that he will be releasing the complainant's text messages in the investigation. We assume that he will be releasing the complainant's multitude of varying and conflicting stories.
"We are not going to besmirch his client in the press. The totality of the investigation which is over one-thousand pages will do that for us.
Our client has asked us not to release anything at this point. Because of the conduct of the complainant's attorney, that may change in the future.”