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Florida State lawsuit reaches $950,000 settlement after Jameis Winston rape accusations

(USA Today)

(USA Today)

Jelani Scott | Sports Editor

On the same day that Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Jameis Winston was named to the 2016 Pro Bowl roster, the 2015 first overall pick’s name appeared in a very serious albeit familiar headline, proving he had not yet escaped the shadows of his past.

On Monday, January 25, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner’s alma mater, Florida State University (FSU), reached a staggering $950,000 settlement with Erica Kinsman, a former student who claimed she was raped by Winston in December 2012.

ESPN reported that Kinsman filed the case in January 2015 against FSU alleging that “Florida State violated federal law when school officials showed a ‘deliberate indifference’ to her allegation.”
Her claims also cited the school fostering a “hostile educational environment” and their refusal to investigate her allegation as Title IX laws dictate.

According to the United States Department of Justice, Title IX is “a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.”
ESPN also reported that Kinsman’s attorney John Clune said his client will receive over $250,000, and that the settlement is “the largest payment ever to a single plaintiff claiming a school’s indifference to a sexual assault allegation.”

The rest is expected to go to her attorneys.

Kinsman, who withdrew from FSU in November 2013 once the case went public, shared her joy and sadness following Monday’s proceedings.

“I will always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of attending since I was little,” she said in a statement. “I am happy that FSU has committed to continue making changes in order to ensure a safer environment for all students.”

According to USA Today, FSU did not admit to liability in the case and university president John Thrasher agreed “in order to avoid additional litigation expenses.”

Thrasher released a statement on Monday, expressing his thoughts on the school’s handling of the case, saying, “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,” he added.

In addition to the significant sum, the school also agreed to publish annual reports on their newly installed sexual assault awareness, prevention and training programs over the next five years.

Monday’s settlement will not prohibit two other pending legal cases attached to Kinsman’s name. In early 2014, she filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that opened an investigation into FSU that is still ongoing.

Kinsman filed a sexual battery lawsuit against Winston in April 2014. Winston counter-sued for defamation and tortuous interference in May of that same year.

Mayanne Downs, one of Winston’s lawyers, issued a statement on Monday, citing her team’s preparedness for the upcoming trial.

“F.S.U.’s choice to settle in no way compromises our commitment to fight for Jameis Winston and to clear the outrageous — and false — allegations against him,” Downs said. “We very much look forward to asking Ms. Kinsman questions while she’s sworn to tell the truth.”

The U.S. District Court trial, which is set to begin in March 2017, only proves that Winston and his supporters’ attempts to silence Kinsman will once again be unsuccessful.

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