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School Hearing Clears Florida State's Jameis Winston Of Sex Allegations

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And we have an update now in a big story in college football. Florida State's star quarterback, Jameis Winston, did not violate the university's code of conduct policy. That is the decision yesterday from a former Florida Supreme Court judge who presided over a hearing related to a rape allegation against Winston. A woman alleged that Winston sexually assaulted her in 2012. And we have NPR's Tom Goldman on the line to tell us more about this. Tom, good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So what exactly did the judge say in his decision to clear Jameis Winston?

GOLDMAN: Well, this is former Justice Major Harding. And he laid out his ruling in a letter to Jameis Winston, and a copy was obtained by several media outlets. And in it, he said the accounts of what happened - the accuser says rape; Winston says consensual sex. Both had strengths and weaknesses. But he wrote he couldn't find with any confidence that either version is more probable than not. Now, Harding needed the evidence to show it was more probable than not that Winston was responsible for the charge violations. And the evidence just didn't show it. Had Harding found Winston responsible, he could've been expelled from school. Now, remember, David, he wasn't facing criminal charges. A prosecutor in Tallahassee decided last year not to file criminal charges because he didn't feel the evidence was strong enough to win in court.

GREENE: Well, then give us the history of how this code of conduct hearing came about.

GOLDMAN: You know, it's required under Title IX. The U.S. Department of Education says schools have to investigate allegations of sexual assault promptly. And Florida State did not do that. The code of conduct hearing earlier this month was held nearly two years after Winston's accuser first identified Winston as the man who allegedly raped her. Florida State currently is under investigation by the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights for how it deals with possible Title IX relations and how it responds to complaints of sexual violence.

GREENE: Well, has there been a response yet from Winston's accuser since this decision yesterday?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, an angry one. A statement from her attorneys reads - and I'm quoting - "we are stunned and dismayed by the order. It's not a decision at all but a statement that the judge couldn't decide." The attorneys say their client testified and answered any and all questions at the hearing, but Winston didn't. And somehow, the statement says, Jameis Winston still wins. Winston did supply Harding with written testimony, a very graphic account of what Winston called consensual sex. Now, the accuser's attorneys say they'll consider an appeal. There's also talk of a civil suit at some point. But none of that is expected to happen before January first, when Winston will lead Florida State in a college football playoff semifinal versus Oregon.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks very much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're Welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.