Just two weeks before the NFL Draft, likely top pick Jameis Winston has to deal with a new distraction: A lawsuit from a woman who claims he raped her back in December 2012.
Erica Kinsman has claimed publicly that Winston drugged her at a bar near Florida State University, then abducted her back to his room to be raped. However, multiple police investigations have ended with no charges against Winston, and Florida State found Winston did not violate its code of conduct. Now, Kinsman is hoping that a civil suit may end differently.
The case has divided the country, with some seeing Winston’s case as the chief example of privileged, untouchable college athletes, while others seeing him as the victim of a campus rape witch-hunt grounded on thin evidence.
“Today, a very brave young woman filed her lawsuit against Jameis Winston for the sexual battery that she reported to police in December 2012,” Kinsman’s lawyer, John Clune, said in a statement. “Over the past two years, this survivor of sexual violence has had to endure a delinquent police investigation, a hostile FSU athletic department, and Mr. Winston’s bullying lawyer. But the more these forces sought to silence her, the more determined she has become to step forward and hold Jameis Winston accountable for his actions. With the support of her family, she is prepared for this fight and for the counterclaims and the smear campaigns that will surely follow.”
The lawsuit accuses Winston of sexual battery, assault, and false imprisonment, and seeks unspecified damages in excess of $15,000. It joins an already-ongoing lawsuit filed in January against Florida State, claiming the school violated Kinsman’s Title IX rights.
Winston’s own attorney, David Cornwall, has not yet responded to Thursday’s suit, but in the past he has said that Winston would meet any lawsuit from Kinsman with a counterclaim seeking damages for extortion and defamation. Winston is the favorite to be chosen first overall on April 30 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and his representatives have suggested that Kinsman is primarily interested in extracting a fat payout from the soon-to-be millionaire.
Kinsman remained anonymous throughout 2013, when her allegations first became known. However, she decided to reveal herself in a recent-released documentary on campus sexual assault, The Hunting Ground. Kinsman’s account is film’s centerpiece, coming at the climax and taking up more time than any other account of alleged assault.
However, the film, and Kinsman’s account, has taken fire for a number of alleged inaccuracies. For example, Kinsman claims that Winston hit her repeatedly and left bruises all over her body, yet a medical examination after she was hospitalized the next day found no bruises at all. Similarly, two separate drug tests found no date-rape drugs in Kinsman’s system (and not much alcohol, either), strongly contradicting her suggestion that Winston may have deliberately drugged her. (RELATED: CNN’s New Rape Documentary Relies On Myths, Not Facts)
When Florida state attorney William Meggs reviewed Kinsman’s case, he ultimately concluded that Kinsman had changed her story several times and was not reliable enough to put on the stand.
However, civil trials have much lower standards than criminal, so Kinsman can reasonably hope that a jury, even if it wouldn’t be willing to send Winston to jail, would still find her story compelling enough to reward a judgment in her favor.
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