Rumor: Jameis Winston’s Best Legal Defense Is To Leave FSU

Florida Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston hopes to make it through the rest of the season.

As now No. 2 Florida State is getting ready to face No. 5 Notre Dame Saturday night at 8 p.m. in front of a national audience on ABC. Plus, a sold out Doak Campbell Stadium, in Tallahassee.

The national focus once again moves in the direction of quarterback Jamesis Winston, a man who seems to live two different lives, one on the field and one off the field.

On the field he is the reigning  Heisman Trophy winner, the man who led the Florida State University Seminoles to the final BCS National Championship.and is the leader of the second best college football team in the United States.

Meanwhile, off the field there was an allegation of the possible rape of a woman at a party. He was never charged with rape in the matter after an intensive investigation by Willie Meggs, the state attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit in Florida. Next he was issued a civil citation on April 30 after leaving the supermarket without paying for $32 worth of seafood. In a statement issued through his lawyer and released to the press, Winston admitted to making “a terrible mistake for which I’m taking full responsibility.”

Then throw in a foul language out bust, this fall at the FSU student union and at the very least you have a young man who seems to find trouble.

To Winston’s credit he later made a public apology to the university, the FSU team and all of Seminole Nation addressing his conduct at the student union. He was suspended for Clemson game by head coach Jimbo Fisher.

So you might imagine that when this weekend on the Sports Illustrated website there was the headline,” Jameis Winston’s best legal move may be to drop out of Florida State.” It was a story that would cause FSU fans to take a moment and read the feature, penned by the respected sports legal analyst, Michael McCann, who  is a Massachusetts attorney and the founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

McCann lays out Winston’s legal options in a very well throughout and very easy to understand way.  He sets things up by going over the recent revelations from The New York Times and Fox Sports that Winston will be part of a Florida University, investigation, into the alleged misconduct conduct of the FSU quarterback and some of his Seminole teammates. FSU has reportedly informed Winston that he will face a disciplinary hearing into allegations that he raped a fellow Florida State student in December 2012.

According to an ESPN report published today, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher, is confident that Winston will not miss any time this season. 
Winston and his representatives have five days to alert  Florida State’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to begin the disciplinary process.  I recommend that you read McCann’s fine story, not just because he is a friend, but because of the masterful job he did laying out Winston’s options.

Here is the cliff note version of his findings quoted directly from the SI.Com story.

Leave FSU – Winston’s participation in the university’s disciplinary process would carry great legal risk for him. A university disciplinary hearing would involve both fact-finding and testimony. Law enforcement or attorneys for Winston’s accuser could later attempt to subpoena these materials and use them against Winston. While a finding that Winston violated university rules would not mean that he broke any laws, the finding would likely be admissible evidence in a prosecution or civil litigation. MORE..

Then comes the option of not dropping out of FSU and staying the course.

Dropping out of Florida State would obviously not be a “cost free” move for Winston. Critics would contend that Winston is admitting fault by sidestepping the university’s investigation. They would deduce that if he’s really innocent, he should be willing to answer questions about what happened the night he is accused of raping a woman. This critique might be unfair, but it would be very easy to make and would undoubtedly harm Winston’s reputation. MORE...

Lastly, McCann looks at what he calls the “Hail Mary Defense,”

The Hail Mary Defense – Winston’s attorneys, especially David Cornwell, have expressed outrage that Florida State has proposed an unconventional approach to investigating Winston. Rather than dropping out of school, Winston could petition a Florida judge for an injunction that would prevent Florida State from carrying out its disciplinary hearing. Winston would argue that the hearing would cause him irreparable harm and that the university cannot be an honest broker in evaluating his conduct. MORE..

The video used in this story is from ESPN.COM