Florida State University has settled a sexual assault
claim with former student Erica Kinsman over allegations that she was raped by quarterback Jameis Winston
in December 2012.
Florida Sexual Assault Case Settled
The settlement of the federal Title IX lawsuit comes a year after Kinsman initial filed her complaint in federal court. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding. Sex discrimination includes the following: sexual harassment, sexual battery, sexual assault
, and rape that are “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.”
As part of the settlement, the university has agreed to pay Kinsman and her attorneys $950,000 – the largest sum that has ever been paid for a Title IX claim regarding indifference to a student’s claim of sexual assault
. In addition to paying the amount, FSU must also make a five-year commitment to programs that help promote awareness, prevention, and training when it comes to handling rape allegations made by a student.
“I will always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of attending since I was little,” said Kinsman in a statement following the announcement of the settlement. “I am happy that FSU
has committed to continue making changes in order to ensure a safer environment for all students.”
Admitting Sexual Assault Liability
While the school has agreed to pay the settlement, according to university president John Thrasher, they have not admitted to liability. Instead, the settlement was made as a way to avoid additional litigation expenses.
“We have an obligation to our students, their parents and Florida taxpayers to deal with this case, as we do all litigation, in a financially responsible manner,” Thrasher said in a statement. “With all the economic demands we face, at some point it doesn’t make sense to continue even though we are convinced we would have prevailed.”
Additional Civil Rights Case
Kinsman also filed a civil lawsuit against Winston directly last April. The quarterback has counter-sued and the case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
This new settlement between FSU and Kinsman will not affect a third ongoing lawsuit that Kinsman has lodged – a Title IX investigation of FSU being led by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. This case was opened in April 2014 after Kinsman filed a complaint with the agency.
Kinsman has no intentions of withdrawing that case. In fact, the continuance of the Civil case was critical when it came to Kinsman’s decision to settle, according to one of Kinsman’s attorneys, John Clune.
The Sexual Assault Settlement and the Allegations Behind It
In the settled lawsuit, Kinsman alleged that FSU had been “deliberately indifferent” to her reported sexual assault and that the university’s response was “clearly unreasonable.” She alleged that the university also concealed and obstructed the investigation into the sexual assault allegations so that Winston would still be able to play football for the school.
Kinsman alleges the assault happened in December 2012 when, after meeting Winston at a bar, he and a group of other people went back to an apartment. Kinsman alleges he raped her at the apartment. Winston maintains the sex was consensual.
When the case went public in 2013, Kinsman decided to leave the school, arguing that the continued harassment she received denied her of the educational opportunities that are protected under Title IX.
Additional Agreements by FSU
In addition to the payment and programs to prevent awareness of rape on campus, FSU has also agreed to publish annual reports of its programs for the next five years.
The school has already seemingly taken measures to address sexual assault issues. In September 2014, the university started the “kNOw MORE” campaign in an effort to educate students, faculty, and staff about the meaning of consent, prevention, and intervention. The campaign was also created to provide resources for victims of sexual assault. Additionally, FSU hired a new Title IX coordinator, added six on-campus safety positions, and published a Victims’ Rights and Resources handbook.
Success for Kinsman
As Clune stated after announcement of the settlement, Kinsman “had two goals in this case – one was to hold the university accountable for what happened and the other was to force changes at Florida State. With this settlement, in conjunction with the OCR investigation, she’s done that.”
FSU Attempted to Dismiss Lawsuit
FSU had made attempts to dismiss Kinsman’s lawsuit, but a judge ruled last August that it would move forward. In attempting to dismiss the case, FSU argued an “appropriate person” was not aware of the harassment that was alleged by Kinsman, and thus could not take corrective action.
But the school had previously admitted that senior associate athletics director Monk Bonasorte and football coach Jimbo Fisher had been aware of the rape allegation in January 2013. That was just one month after Kinsman first reported the assault to police, but had not yet notified the Title IX coordinator or the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Per the judge’s decision, the lawsuit was set to continue, and had entered the pre-trial process with both parties gathering evidence and taking depositions.
In a Sept. 22 deposition, Fisher said he had not been aware of the university’s policy regarding sexual battery at the time the allegation against Winston was first reported.
Additionally, in a deposition of Tallahassee police detective Scott Angulo, he admitted that missteps had been made and that additional investigative steps could and should have been taken when Kinsman first reported the sexual assault in December 2012.
In fact, the investigation sat dormant for nine months before state attorney Willie Meggs decided to decline filing criminal charges. That ruling came in December 2013, a year after the alleged assault happened.
Following an FSU student conduct hearing a year later, in December 2014, Winston was not found to be responsible of committing sexual misconduct. The football players was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft last April and is currently playing quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kinsman is set to graduate from a different school this spring.
Working with an Attorney to Address False Rape Accusations
Sexual assault crimes are taken very seriously by the law. If you have been falsely accused you might assume that the charges will just be dropped because of how ludicrous they are to you. But take this case for example – and the wide-reaching effects that it had on just members of the fraternity associated with the rape allegations.
These types of allegations do not just “go away,” and you will need to be prepared if you are falsely accused. Here are some things you can do:
- Do not speak with police or investigators until you have contacted a criminal defense attorney. They might try different tactics to get you to admit to a crime you did not commit. Remember that they are always trying to build a case. Simply state that you will not speak with them unless there is an attorney present.
- Get in touch with a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney. You’ll want to do this as soon as possible, even if you just expect the charges to be dismissed.
- Prepare for what the allegations might bring. You will be asked to defend yourself, so you’ll need to be prepared. This means contacting witnesses that can testify or provide an alibi for you. You might also need to take psychological tests, or be asked to provide other evidence. Write down as many details as possible about what you remember.
- Study. A criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you through fighting the allegations, but it’s in your best interest to understand the legal process and know your rights.
- You will want to follow all the legal rules and precautions you can, and the best way you can protect yourself is by working with an experienced defense attorney such as Sevens Legal, APC.
Working with Sevens Legal, APC
After you have discussed the specifics of your case, your Sevens Legal, APC, will let you know your case’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any possible risks associated with punishment and convictions you may face. Your Sevens Legal, APC, defense attorney can help negotiate a plea deal or whether the best course of action is to move forward to trial, while working constantly for your best interests.
Sevens Legal, APC, criminal defense lawyers put our experience to work for you. Every defendant deserves a zealous defense. To schedule your free consultation with one of our Sevens Legal, APC, criminal defense lawyers, call (619) 430-2355. Contact Sevens Legal, APC, today for a free consultation.
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