On Friday, FSU officials notified Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, that he faces a hearing to determine whether he violated the university's student conduct code in an alleged sexual assault in December 2012.
Here are a few questions and answers on how the hearing process will proceed:
Has Winston been charged with violating FSU's student conduct code?
No. The case is a bit unusual in that Winston has yet to be charged with a violation of the code. Typically, the university charges students and then holds a hearing to determine whether the student should be disciplined for his or her actions.
In a letter that FSU interim president Garnett Stokes and vice president for student affairs Mary Coburn sent to Winston on Friday, the administrators advised him that he could be charged with as many as four violations of FSU's student conduct code.
What are the violations that Winston might be charged with?
He faces four potential violations, including two related to sexual misconduct, according to the letter:
1.e.1 (a): Sexual misconduct
a. Any sexual act that occurs without the consent of the victim, or that occurs when the victim is unable to give consent. Consent is defined as the willing and clear participation in the sexual act. Inability to give consent includes but is not limited to situations where the individual is:
i. under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other substances (including but not limited to prescribed medications);
ii. unconscious, asleep, ill or in shock;
iii. under the age of eighteen and therefore legally incapable of giving consent; or
iv. known by reason of impairment, mental condition or developmental or physical disability to be reasonably unable to give consent.
Consent is not freely given if no clear verbal consent is given; if the individual is not able to give consent or if consent is achieved through force, threat of force, or coercion. Consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent is not the lack of resistance; there is no duty to fight in order to indicate lack of consent. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, as long as the withdrawal is clearly communicated by the person withdrawing consent through words or actions.
1.e.1 (c): Sexual misconduct
c. Conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for another person. This includes unwanted, unwelcome, inappropriate, or irrelevant sexual or gender-based behaviors, actions or comments.
1.e.2 (a): Endangerment
a. Physical violence towards another person or group.
1.e.2 (b): Endangerment
Action(s) that endanger the health, safety, or well-being of another person or group.
How quickly will the FSU student disciplinary hearing take place?
Winston has until Friday to contact FSU's Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to schedule an information hearing. We can probably assume that the information hearing won't take place until after Saturday's game against No. 5 Notre Dame in Tallahassee. During the information hearing, Winston will be told his rights and how the process of the hearing will take place. After that meeting is completed, the university must give him formal notice within five school days of the scheduled hearing date.
Who will hear Winston's case?
Typically, FSU's student judiciary cases are heard by the following: director of student rights and responsibilities, dean of students, associate dean of students, the student conduct board or an administrative hearing panel, which consists of one faculty member, one staff member and two student conduct board members.
But in what they called "the best interests of the University," the interim president and vice president for student affairs chose to have one of three people from outside the university conduct the formal investigative hearing. According to people familiar with the process, the three men are former judges, none of whom have ties to FSU.
At Winston's information hearing, he will have the opportunity to strike one of the three potential hearing officers; the former FSU student who accused him of sexually assaulting her also can strike one. If they choose to strike the same former judge, FSU would decide which of the remaining two would hear the case. The remaining hearing officer will oversee the hearing, in which he will consider the evidence, determine if Winston violated FSU's student conduct code and, if necessary, decide what punishment Winston will face.
What kind of punishment does Winston potentially face?
If Winston is found to be in violation of FSU's student conduct code, he could face myriad sanctions, including: written or verbal reprimand, service hours, counseling, probation, suspension from the university for as long as two years, and dismissal or expulsion.
According to FSU's hearing procedures, "the burden of proof at a first-level hearing always rests with the University. The standard of proof will be the preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the evidence, as a whole, shows that the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not."
After the hearing, a formal decision letter will be sent to Winston within 10 class days, although the time limit may be extended if additional consideration of evidence and deliberation is required.
Florida State defensive end Chris Casher, one of Winston's roommates, who was in his apartment on the night of the alleged assault, was found guilty of violating two of FSU's student conduct codes for his role in the incident. Casher was sentenced to one year of probation and continues to play on the football team.
Does Winston have to testify at the hearing?
No. Under FSU's hearing procedures, a charged student "may choose not to answer any and all questions posed by a hearing body."
Both the charged student and the university are permitted to make an opening statement (or waive that right) and present evidence and witnesses. The student is allowed to cross-examine the university's witnesses as well. The hearing office may also question the charged student before closing arguments.
It is unclear if Winston will testify at the hearing. After the woman reported the alleged sexual assault to Tallahassee police on Dec. 7, 2012, Winston refused to discuss the case with them. When the state attorney's office in Tallahassee opened an investigation into the matter in November 2013, Winston refused to talk to its investigators. Winston also refused to answer questions from two FSU administrators who were conducting the school's Title IX investigation into the matter.
Can Winston have an attorney with him at the hearing?
Under FSU's hearing procedures, an accused student and his or her accuser are permitted to have one adviser in the room. However, according to the hearing procedures, "Students are required to address the hearing body in person, on their own behalf, although they may consult with their advisor during the hearing. This consultation must take place in a manner that does not disrupt the proceedings. The advisor shall not speak on behalf of the student unless expressly authorized to do so by the hearing body."
Atlanta-based attorney David Cornwell, who has represented Major League Baseball stars Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in high-profile cases, has been advising Winston and his family for the past several months.
John Clune of Boulder, Colorado, is representing Winston's accuser.