Ex-FSU Administrator: Football Players Avoid Sexual Assault Charges


Local and school police's alleged soft spot for Florida State football players is well documented, but such claims have now made their way into a high-profile lawsuit.

In a recent deposition, a former Florida State University (FSU) administrator recently told lawyers suing the school on behalf of Erica Kinsman that Seminoles football players regularly face student conduct charges.

According to The Associated Press, Melissa Ashton is the former director of FSU's victim advocate program. She told Kinsman's lawyers most of the 20 sexual assault complainants who were victimized by a football player over the past nine years decided against pursuing charges. Ashton stated this happened usually because of "fear of retaliation, seeing what has happened in other cases and not wanting that to be them."

Browning Brooks, a spokeswoman for FSU, told The AP she could not comment on Ashton's assertions, since the school keeps communications with sexual assault victims confidential.

Kinsman's case is the most prominent, as she accused Jameis Winston of raping her in Dec. 2013, a few months ahead of his freshman season. Winston went on to win the starting quarterback position before leading the Seminoles to an undefeated season and a National Championship victory.

Yet Kinsman's complaint, which she filed the night of the assault, went virtually ignored for nearly a year. In addition to filing federal lawsuits against Winston and FSU, Kinsman told her story in a documentary detailing how sexual assault complaints are mishandled at several major institutions.

"The Hunting Ground" recently shared the portion of the film that focuses on Kinsman's case on Facebook.

Erica's story (uncut)

FSU President John Thrasher asked people not to watch The Hunting Ground. This is what he was afraid you would see.

Posted by The Hunting Ground on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jeff Benedict, author of "The System," echoed Ashton's claims in the documentary and detailed the financial incentive schools have to keep high-profile student-athletes on the field.

"Sports teams are the business on these campuses," he said of major U.S. schools with Power 5 football programs. "When you build stadiums that cost two, three hundred million dollars... and then you look at multi-billion dollar television contracts, when you're talking about that kind of money, there's an enormous investment in a student-athlete... on a top 20 team that's pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

"[Winston's] a star on the team and that doesn't mean he's guilty, but the point is you have to treat that person like you would anyone else in these cases, and that didn't happen."

In three separate reports last year, The New York Times detailed how Tallahassee police have displayed a pattern of going lightly on FSU football players for a range of crimes. One detailed a hit-and-run case in which two players fled the scene crash for which their vehicle was at fault, returned, and only received a traffic ticket.

The Times also released an investigative report on the shortcomings of the Tallahassee police's investigation, which included not interviewing Winston for almost a full year since Kinsman identified him as her attacker.

Both FSU and the State Attorney's office in Tallahassee ruled there was insufficient evidence from the police investigation for charges of any kind.

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