By GARY FINEOUT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is scheduled to lead his team Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against Georgia Tech.
But he’s spending a large portion of his week before the game in Charlotte, North Carolina, participating in a proceeding that could determine his future at Florida State — both in the classroom and on the football field.
Winston will spend a second day on Wednesday at an ongoing hearing to determine whether he violated the school’s student code of conduct back in December 2012. A then-FSU female student said Winston sexually assaulted her; a prosecutor who investigated the case declined to file criminal charges last year.
Winston and the woman spent nearly five hours Tuesday in separate rooms recounting what happened.
The hearing is closed to the public and media, but representatives of both sides felt the first day went well for their clients.
John Clune, a Colorado attorney and adviser to the former female student, said it didn’t matter what sanctions are ultimately placed on Winston. He said it was “empowering” that she finally got to tell her side of the story of what happened that night.
“It was a long time where she felt like she had no voice and nobody would listen to what she had to say,” Clune said. “She’s no longer a student here. So it doesn’t make a huge difference to her what the sanction is, or what the consequence is, just having that vindication would be something that would be really helpful to her.”
Winston, who looked somber when he left the campus building where the hearing was held Tuesday, did not speak to reporters. But attorney David Cornwell, the Winston family adviser who is representing Winston at the proceedings, predicted that “this nightmare will be over very soon.”
The hearing is to determine whether Winston violated any or all of four sections of the code of conduct — two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment. It is not like a normal criminal proceeding since attorneys for Winston and the former student are not allowed to question witnesses or make statements.
The ramifications for Winston range from a reprimand to expulsion from school.
Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding, who is presiding over the hearing, has 10 school days after the hearing to make a decision. Either Winston or the woman can request an appeal within five days of the initial hearing decision.
Several witnesses, including two of Winston’s teammates — Chris Casher and Ronald Darby — who were present when the alleged assault took place, attended the hearing. But they left together less than a half-hour later.
The Associated Press is not identifying the woman because it does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse.
The hearing is being held at a time when Florida State is currently being investigated by the Department of Education on how it handles possible Title IX violations. The woman who said Winston assaulted her filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, which decided the university should be investigated for possible Title IX violations over the way it responds to sexual violence complaints.
Title IX is a federal statute that bans discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. The Department of Education in 2011 warned schools of their legal responsibilities to immediately investigate allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence, even if the criminal investigation has not concluded.
Off-field problems have been a consistent issue for one of college football’s biggest stars.
Since Meggs announced he wasn’t filing charges against Winston in December 2013, the quarterback has been involved in two widely publicized off-field incidents.
In April, he took $32 worth of crab legs and crawfish from a Tallahassee Publix. He said he forgot to pay, but he agreed to complete 20 hours of community service, which he did. He was briefly suspended from the baseball team, where he is a relief pitcher.
Winston was suspended for one game on the football team in September after he climbed atop a table in a Florida State lunchroom and yelled an obscene phrase.
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