TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was cleared Sunday of the accusations he faced at a student code of conduct hearing involving an alleged sexual assault two years ago.
Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding wrote in a letter to Winston that the evidence was “insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof.” Prosecutor Willie Meggs made a similar decision a year ago when he decided not to criminally charge Winston, citing a lack of evidence.
This month, a two-day hearing was held to determine whether Winston violated four sections of the code of conduct — two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment.
The ramifications for Winston ranged from a reprimand to expulsion from school.
The woman can request an appeal within five days.
“We will consider an appeal, but right now we feel a little duped,” Baine Kerr, one of the woman’s lawyers, said in a statement. “At some point we have to recognize that Florida State is never going to hold James Winston responsible.”
The AP is not identifying the woman because it does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse.
“Somehow Jameis Winston still wins,” Kerr said. “The order doesn’t even follow the Student Conduct Code, and it ignores the bulk of the evidence.”
Kerr said that among his client, Winston and two teammates — Chris Casher and Ronald Darby — who were at the off-campus apartment, only the woman would answer questions about what happened.
Winston did submit a lengthy statement detailing his version of events.
Florida State president John Thrasher said the university selected the former state Supreme Court justice to remove any doubt about the integrity of the process.
“(Harding) 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,” Thrasher said.
Harding wrote that both sides’ version of the events had strengths and weaknesses, but he did not find the credibility of one “substantially stronger than the other.”
“In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for any of the charged violations of the Code,” Harding wrote.
Winston family adviser David Cornwell did not respond to requests for comment.
Cornwell has contended that attorneys for the former student pushed for the hearing after they were rebuffed in an attempt to reach a settlement with Winston.
Florida State faces Oregon in a College Football Playoff semifinal Jan. 1. Before the ruling, there were questions whether Winston would be available.