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News Report Raises Questions About Handling of Rape Allegations at Florida State During Eric Barron's Tenure

by on April 17, 2014 5:55 AM

A published report is raising questions about a rape investigation involving a star football player at Florida State University -- during the time that Penn State's new president was running FSU.

In December of 2012 a Florida State student reported that she had been raped. According to the New York Times, what happened was a "well-kept secret" for nearly a year. Click HERE to read the complete article.

The incident made national headlines when Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was publicly identified as a suspect. Within weeks the prosecutor announced there wasn't enough evidence to file charges. Winston went on to win the Heisman trophy and led his team to the National Championship.

The newspaper says an "examination by The New York Times has found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.

However, those claims are strongly disputed by officials at Florida State University.

According to the Times, "The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA."

Furthermore, the Times asserts, "Florida State did little to determine what had happened. University administrators, in apparent violation of federal law, did not promptly investigate either the rape accusation or the witness’s admission that he had videotaped part of the encounter."

Florida State's athletic department reportedly knew about the allegations several months before the start of last year's football season but allowed Winston to play without answering any questions.

The New York Times report points out that Florida State's football team generated millions of dollars for the athletic department and local businesses last season. The newspaper account goes on to say, "Patricia A. Carroll, a lawyer for Mr. Winston’s accuser, said the police investigator who handled the case, Scott Angulo, told her that because Tallahassee was a big football town, her client would be “raked over the coals” if she pursued the case.

"Officer Angulo has done private security work for the Seminole Boosters, a nonprofit organization, with nearly $150 million in assets, that is the primary financier of Florida State athletics, according to records and a lawyer for the boosters. It also paid roughly a quarter of the $602,000 salary of the university president, Eric Barron, who was recently named president of Penn State," according to the New York Times.

The newspaper also says that Florida State was asked if top officials, including president Barron, had been told about the incident but the university declined to answer.

Asked to comment on the New York Times report, Penn State spokesperson David La Torre pointed out that Barron doesn't start work at Penn State until May 12. La Torre referred questions to Florida State.

A Florida State spokesperson referred StateCollege.com to a comprehensive response to the New York Times story which was posted online Wednesday afternoon. It says that Florida State "vigorously objects to the newspaper's characterization of the university as being uncooperative in explaining its actions." It goes on to say that Florida State does not tolerate sexual assault.

The FSU statement also says, "In the case examined by The Times involving Jameis Winston, no university official outside the Victim Advocate Program received a report from any complainant naming Winston prior to when the allegations were made public in November 2013."

Not long after the incident became public Florida State Attorney's Office announced it would not file charges against Winston. Eric Barron, at that time the Florida State president, issued a statement saying in part, “Recent weeks have provided a painful lesson, as we have witnessed harmful speculation and inappropriate conjecture about this situation and the individuals involved. As a result, we have all been hurt.

“A respect for the principle of due process is essential to the integrity of our community. Our commitment to each and every one of our students is unwavering and will remain our priority.”

Kristen Houser, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), says in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State has become a leader in efforts to prevent sex assaults. She points to the hiring of additional staff to comply with the Clery Act which requires universities to report crimes involving students. Houser says the university has also begun training programs and helped raise awareness about sex crimes.

However, Houser thinks the New York Times story is a wake up call for everyone in higher education.

"Some of the things that were talked about in that article, in that particular investigation, point to some things that are not that uncommon across the country," she says.

Houser says, "The majority of sexual assaults will never result in a criminal conviction." She says that's because of numerous difficulties that come into play, such as a lack of evidence, delays in reporting crimes or faulty memories.

But she maintains that colleges need to do more. "If they want to do right by the students they need to have other protections ... policies, procedures, and other options for victims to take action and feel safe."

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Steve Bauer is Managing Editor & Chief Content Officer at StateCollege.com. Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy. You can e-mail Steve at Steve.Bauer@StateCollege.com and you can follow him on Twitter @SteveBauerSCcom
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