Florida State officials notified reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston on Friday that he will face a disciplinary hearing into charges about whether he sexually assaulted an FSU student in December 2012.
In a letter sent to Winston and his attorney on Friday and obtained by ESPN, FSU interim president Garnett Stokes and vice president for student affairs Mary B. Coburn notified Winston that he might be charged with as many as four violations of FSU's student conduct code, two of which involve sexual conduct.
According to FSU's student conduct policy, Winston has five school days to contact the school's Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to schedule an information hearing, in which he will be advised about his rights and the upcoming student conduct hearing. The student conduct hearing would be held as soon as possible after the information hearing and would determine whether or not Winston is charged.
FSU officials have informed Winston that they have identified three individuals from outside the university who are willing to hear the case. Winston and his accuser each will have an opportunity to strike one of the people from hearing the case.
"It's a highly unusual process, and the decision to avoid making a charging decision is a way to get around making a determination about interim football suspensions," said John Clune, the Boulder, Colorado-based attorney representing Winston's accuser.
"To ensure an absolutely fair and impartial process, and to avoid any conflict created by the ongoing federal investigation and threatened civil litigation, the University will appoint an independent hearing officer to investigate and make findings regarding this matter," FSU spokesperson Browning Brooks told ESPN on Saturday. "The use of an outside hearing officer is allowed under FSU procedures. Out of fairness to the students involved, we are exercising this option to remove any doubt about the integrity of the eventual outcome."
The information in the letter sent to Winston contradicts what his attorney, David Cornwell of Atlanta, tweeted Friday night:
FSU creates new procedures 2 investigate the false allegations. Declines to charge Jameis w/ a violation of Code of Student Conduct.#1ststep
- David Cornwell (@wmdavidcornwell) October 11, 2014
"We would not have commented publicly on this but someone on Mr. Winston's behalf was already tweeting some pretty inaccurate information about the letter that was received," Clune said.
Florida State is currently under investigation by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which is trying to determine whether the university properly protected the woman's Title IX rights when she accused Winston of sexually assaulting her on Dec. 7, 2012.
In December 2013, Willie Meggs, the state's district attorney in Tallahassee, declined to pursue criminal charges against Winston after a three-week investigation.
Winston, who led Florida State to a 14-0 record and the BCS national championship last season, is expected to play for the Seminoles in Saturday's game at Syracuse.
Winston and FSU officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment.