The lawyer for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston remains confident that the Heisman Trophy winner won’t miss any games due to his upcoming code of student conduct hearing. A date has yet to be set for the proceeding, which will reportedly involve four possible violations of the code, two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment in relation to an alleged sexual assault in 2012.
“It’s not going to have any impact on him playing,” David Cornwell told SI.com
Cornwell has represented numerous celebrity athletes in the past, ranging from Alex Rodriguez to Ben Roethlisberger to Reggie Bush. In an interview with SI.com on Monday night, Cornwell said that there’s no urgency on part of he and Winston to hold the hearing. In what could be a window into a strategy to slow-play the situation -- and perhaps prevent information from arising that could further damage Winston in a civil suit -- Cornwell said there should be no rush to hold the hearing.
“What’s the sense of urgency for this unique process?” Cornwell said. “When has anyone confronted this before? We need time.”
Cornwell sent a letter to Florida State officials criticizing the investigation and calling the timetable "unacceptable," according to the Orlando Sentinel, which obtained a copy of the letter.
“It sounds like the plan for Mr. Winston is to stall this out as long as possible to get through this football season,” said John Clune, the lawyer for the alleged victim. “The Department Of Education says these cases should be resolved within 60 days of them learning of the harassment. The school needs to be bigger than the football program for the moment and just get this hearing done. It's not rocket science. They do these all the time for students that haven't won the Heisman Trophy."
Winston’s case is unusual in a few ways. First, he has not been charged with a student code of conduct violation. Cornwell also takes issue with the timing, as he said Florida State is going against its own policy of holding hearings within 12 months of alleged incidents. That's not a precise rule, however, according to the school's sexual harassment policy, which states: complaints "will generally not be investigated" more than a year from the filing date of the complaint. There's a caveat for the rule, however, that says, "unless appropriate in the judgment" of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance.
Cornwell added that before he’s comfortable having a hearing take place he needs certain pieces of evidence. He mentioned specifically the testimony from the code of conduct hearing in May that involved the alleged victim and Winston’s teammates, Chris Casher and Ronald Darby. (Casher received a one year probation for charges of invading privacy and recording images without consent.)
“We’re not going to a hearing where we don’t have full-blown evidence,” Cornwell said. “When all the evidence comes in (in prior instances), her story is rejected. We want all of her prior statements. We don’t want to give her the opportunity to adjust her story and not impeach her with her prior statements.”
Three former judges with no ties to Florida State will preside over the hearing. That decision came after concerns were raised about the potential objectivity of the normal panelists in such hearings, which typically include an assortment of faculty and students. Cornwell was pleased with that development, as he said that they couldn’t help be influenced by the media’s coverage of the case.
Cornwell said the hearing is part of the alleged victim’s lawyers plans to make money off Winston, who has the talent to be a first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
“This is a scheme, this is shakedown of a college student because he’s prominent and he’s going to make a lot of money,” Cornwell said.
At a recent press conference, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he’s not concerned about Winston’s future on the field. “I know the facts of the case,” he said. “The facts haven’t changed.”