Now that Florida State University has settled a federal Title IX lawsuit with a woman who claimed she was raped by then Seminoles star quarterback Jameis Winston in 2012, her attorneys can rejoice. According to FSU, the woman reportedly won $250,000 in the settlement while her lawyers will divvy up $700,000.
The $950,000 settlement represents the greatest sum ever awarded for Title IX claims regarding indifference to a student’s reported sexual assault, although FSU did not admit liability.
FSU president John Thrasher stated, “We have an obligation to our students, their parents and Florida taxpayers to deal with this case, as we do all litigation, in a financially responsible manner. With all the economic demands we face, at some point it doesn’t make sense to continue even though we are convinced we would have prevailed.”
FSU agreed to a five-year commitment to sexual assault awareness, prevention and training programs, with annual reports delineating their progress.
The accuser left FSU in November 2013, one month before she notified police of the sexual assault, then filed an initial complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in early 2014, claiming that once her case went public, harassment denied her educational opportunities under Title IX. In January 2015, she filed a lawsuit against Florida State, alleging that the university had been “deliberately indifferent” to her reported sexual assault. She also stated that FSU concealed and obstructed the investigation so Winston could keep playing football.
In April 2015, the accuser filed a civil suit against Winston, charging him with sexual battery. Winston countersued her for defamation.
The university argued that an “appropriate person” remained unaware of what had transpired in the alleged assault, though the school did confess senior associate athletics director Monk Bonasorte and football coach Jimbo Fisher were aware of the rape allegation in January 2013 and not notify the Title IX coordinator or the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Fisher claimed in a Sept. 22 deposition that he was unaware of the school’s policy about sexual battery at the time of the alleged assault.
In December 2013, state attorney Willie Meggs refused to press charges against Winston. In December 2014, retired Supreme Court Justice Major Harding claimed there was insufficient evidence to hold Winston responsible for violating the Florida State student code of conduct.
The woman’s attorney, John Clune, commented after the settlement, “No. 1, she wanted to hold FSU accountable and it has happened both publicly and financially, and the other is to have an impact on FSU’s campus and make it a safer place for female students. She thinks [Florida State’s initiatives] is a good start, but there is definitely more work to be done. They’re on the path.”
Winston was chosen as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.