ORLANDO (CN) – A woman who accused Florida State University star quarterback, Jameis Winston of raping her sued the school in Federal Court Wednesday, claiming it sacrificed the truth to protect its football program.
Winston, who has always maintained his sexual encounter with the woman was consensual, was not arrested or charged in the case, and in December he was cleared of violating the university’s code of student conduct after a two-day hearing.
But in a lawsuit filed just as the Heisman Trophy winner announced his entrance in this year’s NFL draft, the woman, identified only as Jane Doe, claims the university’s board of trustees was never interested in investigating her allegations, that it violated her due process rights, and that its December ruling — just 10 days before the school was to face Oregon in a college football playoff game triggered a wave of electronic invective against her that included threats of bodily harm.
Doe claims that on Dec. 7, 2012, Winston took her to an off-campus apartment and raped her.
In her complaint, she says that even after she filed a report with police, he FSU did nothing to investigate.
At the time, Winston was a new recruit and had not yet become known. However, as time went on, Winston became FSU’s starting quarterback, leading the team to several victories.
Doe claims the university only asked Winston about the rape allegations after a second woman claimed the quarterback had attacked her, and after the FSU football team won the 2014 national championship game.
When Winston refused to answer any questions, FSU once again dropped the matter, Doe claims.
She says the school’s failure to act, and its attempt to effectively keep her allegations a secret, violated her rights under Title IX.
For nearly a year, Doe claimed no one from FSU’s Title IX office contacted her or required Winston to stay away from her. Therefore, she lived in fear that she would see him in a class they shared or around campus.
Then, in November 2013, in the wake of reports about the allegations that touched off a media firestorm, Doe says harassment and threats forced her to drop out of college.
“Plaintiff received threats on her life on various social media outlets,” the complaint says. “Her sorority received a threat to burn their house down. The tires on a car belonging to a sorority sister were slashed; and other sorority sisters were targeted and threatened.”
In addition, it says, “Personal information about Plaintiff was leaked and spread across the Internet. False and defamatory attacks, including Photoshopped photos of Plaintiff, appeared. She was called a slut, whore, cleatchaser, and other obscenities …[and] the dread and foreboding she had felt all year at FSU came to an explosive head.”
Doe says FSU violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 when its athletic department did not reveal to administration that Winston was a suspect in the 2012 rape investigation.
Title IX provides that students shall enjoy an educational environment “free from sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence.” Doe says it also imbues universities with a duty to investigate, accommodate and protect sexual assault victims.
According to an ESPN report, FSU maintains it complied with all the Title IX provisions and that it does not tolerate sexual violence in any form no matter who the perpetrator might be.
But Doe argues that the trustee’s December hearing contravened the standards of the FSU Student Conduct Code by deliberately not employing its definition of consent, by failing to weigh evidence, and by ignoring the preponderance of the evidence.
“Had FSU not been deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s harassment, discrimination and retaliation, and instead complied with its own policies and federal law by promptly investigating Plaintiff’s rape and sanctioning Winston while protecting Plaintiff’s safety, Winston would have been removed as a threat to Plaintiff long before ever suiting up to play football in a Seminoles jersey, and Plaintiff would be on campus progressing toward an FSU degree,” the complaint states. “Instead, Plaintiff was forced to leave campus while Winston remains, having suffered no consequences.”
The suit also claims FSU subjected Doe to a hostile education environment, forcing her to leave campus and forgo her educational opportunities at the university.
Doe seeks unspecified damages and injunctive relief to force the university to comply with Title IX.
She is represented by David King of King, Blackwell, Zehnder & Wermuth PA in Orlando.
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