Jameis Winston has been cleared by Florida State in his school code of conduct hearing, in response to a student at the school alleging that Winston had sexually assaulted her in 2012. Florida State released a statement regarding the decision from retired Florida Supreme Court justice Major Harding:
The university selected Justice Major Harding, a highly qualified and respected jurist, to remove any doubt about the integrity of this process and the result. He conducted a thorough Student Conduct Code hearing and reviewed more than 1,000 pages of evidence generated by three other investigations, and we would like to thank him sincerely for his service. Moving forward, we remain committed to the principle of due process, and our highest priority will continue to be the safety and well-being of all our students.
USA Today obtained a letter from Harding's decision, which read that "the preponderance of the evidence has not shown" that Winston violated Title IX laws, and therefore, he will not be disciplined.
In a letter to Winston and the woman which was obtained by USA TODAY Sports, Harding wrote, "This was a complex case, and I worked hard to make sure both parties had a full and fair opportunity to present information. In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for any of the charge violations of the Code. Namely, I find that the evidence before me is insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof."
Winston's lawyer tweeted part of the decision earlier on Sunday.
"In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for ANY of the charged violations of the Code."— David Cornwell (@wmdavidcornwell) December 21, 2014
The woman who brought the allegations is allowed to appeal the decision within five class days, which would be mid-January, since the school is on break. While the woman can also sue Winston in civil court, that could be tougher now, as sports legal expert Michael McCann wrote:
While an FSU hearing is not the same as a trial, Jameis Winston winning hearing is very positive legal sign for him should accuser sue him.— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) December 21, 2014
The allegations came from a Dec. 2012 incident, but the state attorney's office did not open its investigation until Nov. 2013. In Dec. 2013, State Attorney Willie Meggs announced that Winston would not be charged with a crime stemming from the allegations, due in part a poor combination of evidence and witnesses to take the stand.
Meggs opened by saying that the investigation timeline had nothing to do with football. He refused to say whether the announcement was a vindication for Jameis Winston, or an indication of a lack of evidence.
He did, however, tell ESPN TV that he did not find the complainant as someone who he believed he could put on the stand. He said that sometimes weak witnesses can be bolstered by additional evidence, but that was not the case in this investigation.