Winston's attorney meets deadline

ByMark Schlabach ESPN logo
Friday, October 17, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston is moving forward with an upcoming student judiciary hearing, in which he might be charged with as many as four violations of FSU's student conduct code for his conduct in an alleged sexual assault in December 2012, his attorney, David Cornwell, told on Friday morning.

Cornwell, an Atlanta-based attorney who has represented Major League Baseball stars Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in high-profile cases, said he has already contacted FSU's Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and struck one of the three former Florida Supreme Court chief justices whom the university proposed to hear the upcoming case.

Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, had a Friday deadline to contact the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to schedule an information hearing. Cornwell said he did it on Winston's behalf, and the attorney is now waiting for FSU to assign an outside hearing officer for the case.

"We've been pretty consistent in saying that we will be cooperative with the expectation of fairness," Cornwell said. "I still have some concerns, but we'll address each of them individually as we move forward."

Cornwell said in a statement that Winston's cooperation "shall not operate as a waiver of our right to challenge any aspect of this process."

Cornwell declined to identify which of the three judges he struck on Winston's behalf. The judges under consideration to hear the case are former Florida Supreme Court chief justices Major Harding, Joseph Hatchett and Charles T. Wells. The judge who hears the case will consider the evidence, decide whether or not Winston violated FSU's student conduct code and, if necessary, determine any sanctions.

The woman who accused Winston of sexually assaulting her in an off-campus apartment also had an opportunity to strike one of the three judges. Her attorney, John Clune of Boulder, Colorado, confirmed to ESPN on Friday that his client struck a judge from hearing the case but did not specify which one. If Winston and his accuser chose the same judge, FSU will choose one of the two remaining judges to hear the case.

Cornwell requested more information from his accuser, including access to her social media accounts, her phone and text messages in the days surrounding the alleged incident, the record from the code of conduct hearing involving FSU players Chris Casher and Ronald Darby and "all of her prior statements regarding her sexual relationship with Mr. Winston.''

Clune said in an email to that Cornwell "wants to turn this into a media circus.''

"We would think his client has had enough of that lately,'' Clune said. "Both sides will get the same information from the school, both will be able to testify, and the judge will decide. We are not going to allow a whole new disciplinary process just for Jameis Winston.''

Winston, who is expected to play for the No. 2 Seminoles in Saturday's game against No. 5 Notre Dameat Doak Campbell Stadium, might be charged with as many as four violations of FSU's student conduct code, including two related to sexual misconduct.

Cornwell said he still had concerns about the hearing's procedures, including whether an attorney can speak on behalf of a charged student (under current FSU guidelines they can't), whether he'll be able to interview the accuser during the hearing, and whether he'll be able to introduce the woman's past statements about the incident into evidence.

"I'm not walking this kid into a firing line without the necessary weapons," Cornwell said.

Under FSU's student conduct general provisions and hearing rules, university officials must give Winston notice of a scheduled hearing at least five school days in advance.

Willie Meggs, the state attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, declined to pursue criminal charges against Winston after a three-week investigation in November 2013.

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