Erica Kinsman says she hopes federal probe will yield more change at FSU, other schools
Kinsman has also sued Jameis Winston individually; that lawsuit is unaffected by settlement
Winston has countersued, accusing Kinsman of having consensual sex, then defaming him
Florida State University has reached a $950,000 settlement with a former student who sued the school after alleging she was raped by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, school President James Thrasher said in a Monday statement.
Erica Kinsman has agreed to drop her Title IX lawsuit against the school, the statement said.
“Although we regret we will never be able to tell our full story in court, it is apparent that a trial many months from now would have left FSU fighting over the past rather than looking toward its very bright future,” Thrasher said, adding that he was confident the trial would’ve yielded the same conclusion as two investigations and a student conduct hearing that cleared Winston.
The main reason the school settled, Thrasher said, was to avoid millions of dollars in legal expenses.
“We have an obligation to our students, their parents and Florida taxpayers,” he said. “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.”
Though Thrasher said in his statement that Kinsman will receive $250,000 of the settlement and her attorneys will get $700,000, Kinsman’s lawyer, John Clune, told CNN that was not true and the attorneys fees “are not going to be anything close to $700,000. … We had no need to break down that amount.”
Clune pointed to the settlement document, which provides the breakdown cited by Thrasher but also notes in the following paragraph that the breakdown “does not necessarily reflect the allocation between Kinsman and her counsel.”
FSU is committed to ensuring students don’t experience sexual harassment or assault, Thrasher said, pointing to several measures the Tallahassee university has undertaken, including forming a sexual assault prevention task force, hiring an interpersonal violence expert as its Title IX coordinator, publishing a victims’ rights handbook, adding positions related to campus safety and requiring incoming freshmen to take an online course about sex and relationships.
Kinsman, who is slated to graduate this spring with a degree in mass communications from another four-year university, said she was pleased the school enacted new policies and education initiatives, and she expressed hope that a federal investigation into her ordeal would produce even more changes.
“I’ll always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of attending since I was little,” she said. “I am happy that FSU has committed to continue making changes in order to ensure a safer environment for all students. My hope is that the federal investigation of my complaint by the Office of Civil Rights will produce even more positive change, not just at FSU, but across the country.”
Kinsman filed her lawsuit as Jane Doe, alleging that FSU “in concert with Tallahassee Police, took steps to ensure that Winston’s [alleged] rape of plaintiff would not be investigated either by the university or law enforcement.” She further accused the school of failing to respond when she became a target of hostility.
CNN doesn’t normally identify the alleged victims of sexual assault; however, Kinsman revealed her name this year in a documentary about rape on college campuses.
Thrasher called the suit without merit when it was filed in January 2015 and said FSU officials asked her nine times over a 20-month period to provide a statement that would enable a Title IX investigation.
Title IX requires schools to investigate sexual assault allegations, even if criminal charges weren’t filed.
Winston, who led the Seminoles to a 2013 national championship and snared that year’s Heisman Trophy, given to college football’s best player, was never arrested after criminal investigations by Tallahassee police and a state prosecutor. He was also cleared during a December 2014 hearing into whether he violated the student conduct code.
FSU said in October 2014 that Winston told the athletics department of the allegation, but the department did not initially file a report with the school’s Title IX administrator because no charges were filed and because other players who were with Winston said there was no assault.
The case began in December 2012 when Winston was a top recruit for Florida State but wasn’t yet playing on the team.
According to police documents, Kinsman was drinking with friends at a Tallahassee bar when an unknown man gave her a shot. The two left the bar, according to the police reports, and Kinsman did not remember much aside from being in a ground-floor apartment, where the unknown man took off her clothes and engaged in intercourse with her, despite her objections.
A month later Kinsman recognized Winston in one of her classes and accused him of rape. The woman’s family said a detective warned her attorney that Tallahassee is a “big football town” and that life could be miserable if she pursued the case, but Tom Coe, Tallahassee’s interim police chief at the time, said Kinsman told police she didn’t want to pursue the case.
Winston has repeatedly said the sex was consensual.
Winston, who is now a quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wasn’t named as a defendant in the Title IX lawsuit against FSU, but Kinsman filed a separate lawsuit against the quarterback in April, alleging sexual battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“As for timing, we didn’t want to wait until the eve of the draft or after he signed a contract,” Kinsman’s attorney, Clune, said at the time. “As soon as we finished the various motions briefing on the FSU case, we turned our attention to Jameis and got it filed.”
Winston’s attorney, David Cornwell, dismissed the lawsuit as a stunt, saying, “Ms. Kinsman’s false accusations have already been exposed and rejected six times. This time will be no different. Mr. Winston welcomes the opportunity to clear his name with the truth.”
A month after Kinsman sued him, Winston filed a countersuit claiming Kinsman had consensual sexual relations with him, lied about it and publicly tarnished his image. He also alleged that Kinsman demanded $7 million “and promised that, if [he] paid he would never hear from Ms. Kinsman again.”
“Ms. Kinsman is motivated by the most insidious of objectives – greed,” the suit said.
Clune defended his client, saying, “Refusing to answer questions and smearing people in the media aren’t going to fly here. I’m not sure how well that will end up for him in this case.”
CNN’s Alina Machado, Ashley Fantz, Steve Almasy, Jason Durand, Wayne Sterling and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.