Woman accusing 2 Gators of sexual assault boycotts hearing
A woman who accused two University of Florida football players of sexual assault skipped a school code of conduct hearing Friday because a Gators sports booster was assigned to adjudicate the case, her attorney said in a letter to the school.
Receiver Antonio Callaway and quarterback Treon Harris were suspended by the university in January for conduct code violations. There are no police records of a complaint against Callaway and Harris, who is in the process of transferring from Florida.
Callaway, who led Florida with 35 catches for 678 yards and returned two punts for touchdowns last season, returned to campus for classes in June after missing spring practice. He practiced with the team this week, but coach Jim McElwain said the sophomore has not been cleared to play.
Boulder, Colorado-based attorney John Clune wrote in email to the university's general counsel that the woman making the allegations against Callaway and Harris, along with her family members and five witnesses were boycotting the scheduled hearing at the Gainesville campus. The email, first reported by ESPN and provided to The Associated Press, was dated Aug. 5.
Callaway's Gainesville attorney, Amy Osteryoung, said the hearing took place Friday without the complainant.
Clune wrote that his client ''remains very willing to participate in a fair and unbiased disciplinary process.'' Clune wrote that he first reached out to the university earlier this week to express his concerns with Jacksonville attorney Jake Schickel being assigned to the hearing. Schickel is a former member of the Florida track and field team. ESPN reported he donated thousands of dollars to Gators football and basketball during the 2014-15 school year.
''I have done everything in my power to try to address this with your office since learning of Mr. (Jake) Schickel's conflicts and suggest reasonable alternatives,'' Clune wrote.
University spokeswoman Janine Sikes said in a statement that student conduct hearing officers could be a university employee or an outside professional, or a committee of faculty and students.
''Any hearing officer and all committee members are trained and vetted for their impartiality,'' Sikes said. ''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.''
Osteryoung criticized Clune in a statement for going to the media with his letter, calling his actions ''inappropriate and an attempt at intimidation.''
''We are not going to besmirch his client in the press. The totality of the investigation which is over one thousand (1,000) pages will do that for us,'' Osteryoung said.
In his letter, Clune also accused the university of entering materials into the hearing about his client's sexual history.
''I renew my request to continue the hearing, assign an impartial hearing officer, and remove the materials regarding prior sexual history or at a minimum give (my client) the time to actually prepare to address those unrelated issues,'' he wrote.