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Disciplinary Hearing Threatens Jameis Winston's FSU Future

October 11, 2014 - 6:00pm

To counter what they labeled "inaccurate information" tweeted Friday by Jameis Winston's attorney, Florida State officials quickly notified the reigning Heisman Trophy winner he will face a disciplinary hearing into charges he sexually assaulted an FSU student in December 2012.

Winston nevertheless was allowed to quarterback No. 1 Florida State on Saturday to a 38-20 victory against Syracuse University in New York.

In a letter sent to Winston and his attorney, FSU interim president Garnett Stokes and vice president for student affairs Mary B. Coburn notified Winston he might be charged with as many as four violations of FSU's student conduct code, two of which involve sexual conduct.

Winston has five school days to contact the FSU Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to schedule an information hearing. At that time he will be advised about his rights and the upcoming student conduct hearing.

According to student government rules, the student conduct hearing would be held as soon as possible after the information hearing and will determine whether Winston is charged.

The hearing is for internal discipline. Criminal charges cannot directly result. But if found guilty, Winston -- who led FSU to a 14-0 record and the BCS national championship last season -- could be either reprimanded or face expulsion from the university.

ESPN reports FSU officials have informed Winston they identified three individuals from outside the university who are willing to hear the case. Winston and his accuser each will have an opportunity to strike one of the people from hearing the case, explained the sports network.

"It's a highly unusual process, and the decision to avoid making a charging decision is a way to get around making a determination about interim football suspensions," John Clune, the Boulder, Colo.-based attorney representing Winston's accuser, told ESPN.

"To ensure an absolutely fair and impartial process, and to avoid any conflict created by the ongoing federal investigation and threatened civil litigation, the university will appoint an independent hearing officer to investigate and make findings regarding this matter," FSU spokesperson Browning Brooks said. "The use of an outside hearing officer is allowed under FSU procedures. Out of fairness to the students involved, we are exercising this option to remove any doubt about the integrity of the eventual outcome."

The information in the letter sent to Winston contradicts what his attorney, David Cornwell of Atlanta, tweeted Friday night:

"FSU creates new procedures 2 investigate the false allegations. Declines to charge Jameis w/ a violation of Code of Student Conduct.#1ststep

"- David Cornwell (@wmdavidcornwell) October 11, 2014"

Said Clune, "We would not have commented publicly on this but someone on Mr. Winston's behalf was already tweeting some pretty inaccurate information about the letter that was received."

For FSU, the Winston sexual assault story is a nightmare that won't go away.

The university is currently under investigation by the federal Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which is trying to determine whether the school properly protected the woman's Title IX rights when she accused Winston of sexually assaulting her on Dec. 7, 2012. At stake is hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding that all state universities receive, said ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack.

A letter Winston's attorney Cornwell sent in September to FSU says the quarterback will cooperate with the Title IX probe. "Mr. Winston will cooperate with the investigation. He looks forward to clearing his name. But Mr. Winston will not walk into a honey trap. The investigation must be a legitimate investigation."

In December 2013, Willie Meggs, the district attorney in Tallahassee, declined to pursue criminal charges against Winston after a three-week investigation.

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