Florida State University star quarterback Jameis Winston, accused of raping a female student nearly two years ago, on Tuesday faced a student conduct code hearing that both sides hoped would help resolve a complicated, high-profile case.
Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy last year as the nation’s top college player, is accused of violating the university’s standards during the December 2012 incident that his lawyers have maintained was a consensual sexual encounter.
A Florida state attorney determined last year there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Winston, a sophomore, in the case.
However, a conduct code violation requires a significantly lower burden of proof. Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding could find up to four parts of the code were violated, media outlets reported.
If Winston is found to have violated the school’s code of conduct, he could receive discipline ranging from a reprimand to expulsion, according to The Sports Xchange news service.
“This courageous young woman finally gets the chance to stand up for herself and against Mr. Winston and big time college sports which has long run over the rights and protection of women on campus,” John Clune, one of the female accuser’s attorneys, said in a statement.
Attorney David Cornwell, who entered the hearing with Winston, told reporters the quarterback never raped his accuser.
“Unfortunately, in these type of cases, the only way to confront the lie is with the truth. Jameis will tell the truth today,” Cornwell said.
In a recent series of off-field incidents, Winston was benched for shouting obscenities in the student union plaza and was cited for shoplifting seafood from a grocery store.
The allegations have overshadowed a winning season for the Florida State Seminoles, coming as the National Football League faces criticism for its handling of domestic violence and other abuse by its players.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is also investigating Florida State’s handling of the case.
(Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott and Colleen Jenkins)