Heisman winner Winston’s lawyer offered to pay rape accuser to keep quiet: Report
Lawyers involved in the case over rape accusations against Florida State University quarterback, Jameis Winston, said a financial payoff was discussed in exchange for the silence of his female accuser, but they disagreed over who initiated the idea, according to the Tampa Bay Times newspaper.
The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was asked to pay $7 million for the silence of the woman who claimed he raped her, Winston’s lawyer said in a letter obtained on Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Times.
Winston’s lawyer made the claim in a letter to administrators at the university, the newspaper reported.
However, the accuser’s attorney told the newspaper that it was Winston’s attorney who first made contact.
The news comes days after Winston was benched for one game after shouting obscenities in the student union plaza. The case came amid widespread criticism of how the National Football League handles domestic violence and other abuse by its players.
Winston is cooperating with an investigation by the school in Tallahassee, north Florida into allegations that he raped a fellow student in December 2012, said his attorney, David Cornwell, in a Twitter post on Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights launched its own investigation into the way Florida State handled the case. Winston’s lawyer confirmed Tuesday he is cooperating in that investigation as well.
Winston “looks forward to clearing his name,” he wrote.
Cornwell did not immediately return a call on Wednesday seeking comment on the report of a letter disclosing settlement talks.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that the discussions occurred in February, two months after Winston was cleared in a criminal probe when a Florida state attorney determined there was insufficient evidence to charge him.
A lawyer for the woman behind the rape accusations said Cornwell failed to mention in the letter that he was the one who reached out, said the woman’s attorney, John Clune, in an email to the newspaper.
Clune could not immediately be reached for comment.
FSU declined to release the letter from Winston’s attorney, noting that it was confidential and exempt from state public records law.
“We have explored the possibility of redacting the document, but doing so will not protect the identity of the students involved,” the university said in an email.
Winston’s accuser has since withdrawn from the university. His DNA was found in her underwear, although his attorneys maintained the sexual encounter was consensual.
(Reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by Letitia Stein, David Adams and Cynthia Osterman)