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Oct 11, 2014 12:58 PM

Florida St to use outside official in Winston case

The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State will use an independent official in its hearing of quarterback Jameis Winston, saying it wants to "remove any doubt about the integrity" of the proceedings.

No hearing date has been set for the student code of conduct hearing. A female student accused Winston of rape stemming from a December 2012 encounter.

The independent officer will "ensure an absolutely fair and impartial process, and to avoid any conflict created by the ongoing federal investigation and threatened civil litigation," university spokeswoman Browning Brooks said in a statement Saturday.

Three independent officers will be presented. Winston and the woman have the option to eliminate one of them.

"The use of an outside hearing officer is allowed under FSU procedures," Brooks wrote. "Out of fairness to the students involved, we are exercising this option to remove any doubt about the integrity of the eventual outcome."

Winston was not arrested or charged when police and the state attorney conducted their investigations. The university on Friday released a timeline of events defending its investigation.

David Cornwell, legal adviser to the Winston family, said the university's statement shows that the quarterback is innocent of any wrongdoing. Cornwell said the woman's allegations have been rejected by "every official entity that has heard or investigated it."

Department of Education guidelines state that a university must conduct an investigation regardless of whether a complaint is filed, and "a law enforcement investigation does not relieve the school of its independent Title IX obligation to investigate the conduct."

Florida State said in its statement that the only ones aware of what happened before January 2013 were Tallahassee police, campus police and the Victims Advocate Program. The program is not required to share information with school officials as a way to help victims. The athletic department decided not to file a report with the university's Title IX administrator after Winston's lawyer said the Tallahassee Police Department was "no longer pursuing the case" and Winston and his roommates said the sex was consensual.

The university said its Title IX officials didn't become aware of the matter until November 2013, when contacted by the Tallahassee Police Department.

Baine Kerr, one of the woman's attorneys, released a statement on behalf of his client Friday in response to Florida State's actions and said the university is "trying to do a little preventative damage control." He added that the university's timeline is "full of errors."


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