GARY FINEOUT, Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The attorney for NFL prospect Jameis Winston said the lawsuit filed against the former Florida State University quarterback by a woman who says he raped her is “false” and a “stunt.”
David Cornwell said in written a statement Friday the lawsuit by former Florida State student Erica Kinsman was expected. He said her accusations have been rejected by police and Florida State. The lawsuit was filed Thursday, two weeks before the NFL draft where Winston could be the No. 1 pick.
“Ms. Kinsman’s false accusations have already been exposed and rejected six times. This time will be no different,” Cornwell said. “Mr. Winston welcomes the opportunity to clear his name with the truth. Mr. Winston is looking forward to the upcoming draft. He will not permit this ploy to distract him as he begins the journey of fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a championship quarterback in the National Football League.”
Kinsman says she was intoxicated at a Tallahassee bar in December 2012 when Winston and others took her back to Winston’s apartment and he sexually assaulted her. The lawsuit accuses Winston of rape, assault, false imprisonment and emotional distress. Winston says the sex was consensual.
The Associated Press does not routinely identify people who say they are sexual assault victims. However, Kinsman told her story publicly in a documentary.
Prosecutors declined to file charges against Winston in late 2013. He also was cleared by the university following a two-day student conduct hearing last year. The hearing was held to determine whether Winston violated four sections of the code of conduct — two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment.
But John Clune, a lawyer for Kinsman, said in a statement Thursday there are consequences for Winston’s behavior “and since others have refused to hold him accountable, our client will.”
“Erica hopes to show other survivors the strength and empowerment that can come from refusing to stay silent no matter what forces are against you,” Clune said. “Jameis Winston in contrast has proven time and time again to be an entitled athlete who believes he can take what he wants. He took something here that he was not entitled to and he hurt someone.”
Because the burden of proof is much lower in a civil lawsuit than in a criminal case, Kinsman could have a better chance of winning a jury verdict if it goes to trial.
David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Miami, said in a civil case the standard amounts to the “greater weight” of the evidence, or “merely tipping the scales in favor of the plaintiff.”
In a criminal case, prosecutors must prove a person’s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The scales have to be tipped all the way over to the side of the prosecution,” said Weinstein, who is not involved in the case.
Weinstein also said that he thought Kinsman’s chances of prevailing were good, based on the detailed allegations and multiple witness statements in the lawsuit. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
“The defense will drag her character through the mud, so this is going to be an unpleasant process for her,” he said. “However, Winston has a lot to lose, so I foresee a settlement and not a trial.”
Kinsman has also filed a lawsuit against FSU’s trustees, asserting that university officials had knowledge of her alleged sexual harassment and discrimination by the star quarterback and this created a hostile educational environment for her. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, including reimbursement for tuition, damages for emotional pain and suffering and loss of past and present earning and earning capacity.
Lawyers for the university’s board of trustees contend the lawsuit should be dismissed because it does not show that FSU was responsible for her harassment, but they also maintain that they offered her assistance.
AP Legal Affairs Writer Curt Anderson contributed to this story from Miami.
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