FSU Winston Accuser: FSU, Accuser Settle

Published: January 26, 2016

FSU Winston Accuser: FSU, Accuser Settle, Florida State has settled a federal Title IX lawsuit with Erica Kinsman, a former student who said she was raped by quarterback Jameis Winston in 2012.

The settlement was announced on Monday, more than a year after she initially filed the complaint in federal court.

FSU agreed to pay Kinsman $950,000 – an amount that includes attorney’s fees – as well as make a five-year commitment to awareness, prevention and training programs. The lump sum is the largest settlement for Title IX claims regarding indifference to a student’s reported sexual assault.

“I will always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of attending since I was little,” Kinsman 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.”

FSU did not admit to liability in the settlement, which university president John Thrasher said the school agreed to in order to avoid additional litigation expenses.

“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,” Thrasher said in a statement. “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.”

The settlement does not affect an ongoing Title IX investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Kinsman filed a complaint with the agency in early 2014 and it opened an investigation in April of that year.

John Clune, one of Kinsman’s attorneys, said not withdrawing her OCR complaint was critical for Kinsman in agreeing to the settlement.

In her lawsuit, which was settled in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Kinsman alleged that Florida State was “deliberately indifferent” to her reported sexual assault and that its response was “clearly unreasonable.” She asserted that FSU concealed and obstructed the investigation so as to allow Winston to play football.

Kinsman, who left FSU in November 2013 when the case became publicly known, argued that continued harassment denied her of her educational opportunities under Title IX.

As part of the settlement, FSU agreed to publish annual reports of its programs for the next five years.

In September 2014, FSU created the “kNOw MORE” campaign, seeking to educate students, faculty and staff about the meaning of consent, prevention, intervention and provide resources for sexual assault victims. The school has also hired a new Title IX coordinator, added six positions related to on-campus safety and published a Victims’ Rights and Resources handbook, among other initiatives.

“She had two goals in this case – one was to hold the university accountable for what happened and the other was to force changes at Florida State,” said Clune. “With this settlement, in conjunction with the OCR investigation, she’s done that.”

FSU had previously tried to have Kinsman’s lawsuit dismissed, but Judge Mark E. Walker ruled in August that it could go forward.

FSU had argued that an “appropriate person” was not aware of the harassment Kinsman alleged and could not take corrective action.

The school had previously admitted that senior associate athletics director Monk Bonasorte and football coach Jimbo Fisher were aware of the rape allegation in January 2013, a month after Kinsman first reported to police, but did not notify the Title IX coordinator or the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Before the lawsuit was settled, it was proceeding through discovery with both parties taking depositions and gathering evidence.

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