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FSU Settles Lawsuit With Woman Who Accused Winston Of Rape

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Paul Sancya/Associated Press
The Florida Channel
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Florida State University has settled a Title IX lawsuit with a former student who said the school failed to adequately investigate allegations that she was raped by former star quarterback Jameis Winston.

The settlement was announced a day before Winston's accuser, Erica Kinsman, had been scheduled to give a deposition in the case. As part of the settlement, FSU is making a five-year commitment to sexual assault awareness and prevention. The university also has agreed to publish annual reports for the next five years about those programs.

Florida State said in a statement that it has formed a Sexual Assault Prevention Task Group, hired a full-time Title IX coordinator, added six positions to improve campus safety and required all incoming freshmen to complete an online course to make "more informed choices about sex and relationships."

FSU President John Thrasher also noted that there have been more than 100 training sessions conducted on campus dealing with sexual assault and how to prevent it.

The settlement also calls for a $950,000 payment to Kinsman and her attorneys. A copy of the settlement says Kinsman's attorneys will get $700,000 of that money, though they say that figure was inserted by the university and that they will receive far less for their fees.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, but Kinsman has spoken publicly about her case, including in a documentary.

Thrasher said in a press release Monday that the university settled to avoid spending millions on the lawsuit.

"Although we regret we will never be able to tell our full story in court, it is apparent that a trial many months from now would have left FSU fighting over the past rather than looking toward its very bright future," Thrasher said in the release.

Jim Ryan, a partner with Cullen and Dykman who deals in Title IX cases, said typical settlement amounts range from $250,000 to $500,000, but most are kept confidential.

Kinsman has said she was drunk at a Tallahassee bar in December 2012 when Winston and others took her to an apartment, where she says the quarterback raped her.

Winston has said the allegations are false and that he and Kinsman had consensual sex. Prosecutors said there wasn't enough evidence to win a conviction and that there were gaps in Kinsman's story.

A lawsuit filed by Kinsman against Winston — and a countersuit he filed against her claiming she is trying to take advantage of his newfound wealth as the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — are ongoing and are not affected by the settlement.

A Title IX investigation by the Office of Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education also is ongoing. Title IX is a federal statute that bans discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. The department in 2011 warned schools of their legal responsibilities to immediately investigate allegations of sexual assault, even if the criminal investigation has not concluded.

Baine Kerr, one of Kinsman's attorneys, told The Associated Press that the university wanted Kinsman to withdraw her complaint, but she refused. Kinsman will graduate this spring from another four-year university.

Melissa Ashton, who had been director of FSU's victim advocate program until August, said in a deposition given this past summer that football players receive special treatment at the school. She said most of the estimated 20 rape victims she encountered during the past decade declined to press student conduct charges.

"My hope is that the federal investigation of my complaint by the Office of Civil Rights will produce even more positive change, not just at FSU, but across the country," Kinsman said in a statement.

The settlement comes as numerous other cases call attention to the need for reform at campuses across the nation, said Brett Sokolow, Executive Director of The Association of Title IX Administrators. Two other colleges, Michigan State University and the University of California, Berkeley have faced similar lawsuits accusing administrators of failing to adequately investigate reports of sexual assault.

"This case has raised awareness nationally because of the high-profile coverage and how starkly the systemic failures were chronicled in the media," Sokolow said.