Florida State University officials did not have the power to compel Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to appear at a disciplinary hearing this week for two of his football teammates accused of violating the school’s rules the morning the quarterback was accused of rape.
While not speaking specifically to this case, university spokeswoman Browning Brooks confirmed Wednesday that the school cannot compel a student witness to appear at a hearing and cannot sanction a student who does not attend.
Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen, said he was never notified that the quarterback was sought as a witness at the hearing for Seminoles defensive end Chris Casher and defensive back Ronald Darby, who were accused of breaking university rules when they admitted in sworn statements that they watched a 2012 sexual encounter involving Winston and a woman who called police a short time later and accused him of rape.
Chris Casher (left) and Ronald Darby were the subjects of a Tuesday discplinary hearing that teammate Jameis Winston did not attend.
Attorneys for the woman, who accused Winston of raping her at an off-campus apartment in December 2012, said they were told Winston had been notified that he was a witness in the case and was expected to attend.
But Winston wasn’t at Tuesday’s hearing, having traveled to North Carolina for the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament.
Florida State officials this spring told Casher and Darby they face possible discipline on allegations of multiple violations of the code of conduct. Both men are accused of what amounts to sexual misconduct and invasion of privacy. And Casher is additionally accused of videotaping someone in a place in which he or she would have expected privacy. If either Casher or Darby is found to have violated the student code of conduct, he could face discipline up to expulsion from Florida State.
The disciplinary panel took testimony Tuesday. Under the school’s code-of-conduct policies, the panel has 10 days to reach a decision and decide whether to impose discipline.
Winston, who burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman quarterback and led Florida State to the BCS national championship last season, has never answered questions about the alleged sexual assault. His attorney, Jansen, said Winston’s encounter with the woman was consensual.
Neither Casher nor Darby has responded to a request for comment left with the Florida State sports information staff. School officials also declined to comment, citing state and federal student privacy laws.
Sworn statements from Casher and Darby that the sexual encounter appeared to be consensual played a role in the decision not to file criminal charges in the case. But it was those sworn statements – and Casher’s later admission to a police officer that he filmed part of the incident – that led Florida State officials to charge them with code-of-conduct violations.
The federal government has launched an investigation of Florida State’s handling of the Winston case.
The federal gender-equity law known as Title IX requires all schools receiving federal funds to launch “prompt and equitable” investigations of sexual assaults involving students and to take whatever action is appropriate. The directive from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights anticipates the completion of those investigations within 60 days in most cases.
FOX Sports reported earlier this year that Florida State officials did not attempt to question Winston about the incident until January 2014 – more than a year after he was first identified as a possible suspect in the alleged rape.
If federal investigators conclude that Florida State administrators did not conduct a proper probe, they will work with school officials to make sure one is conducted. Though Winston would not face criminal charges because Florida prosecutors have already said there was not enough evidence to charge him, it’s possible he could still face discipline from the university, including expulsion.