Jameis Winston's Upcoming Hearing May Inspire Him to Go Pro
The current Heisman Trophy winner played in Florida State University's game against Syracuse on Saturday, threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns, and, one day earlier, received a hearing notice from the university regarding the alleged sexual assault charges from December 2012. Jameis Winston has five school days to notify school authorities and must schedule a date to begin the hearing as soon as possible. To date, Florida State has not charged Winston with anything when setting aside the one-game suspension for unrelated reasons and, therefore, he continues to remain eligible to play as the disciplinary process ensues. So, Winston's attorney will have his work cut out for him in the upcoming months to show that he did not violate the university's student code of conduct and should not be disciplined for any one of four violations in question.
This investigation has a couple interesting twists to it. First, Florida State chose to elect three independent parties to conduct the disciplinary process. The university normally conducts a hearing after the student is charged, and as reported by ESPN.com, a committee comprised of faculty, staff, and students sit as the fact-finding judges. Here, none of the three selected parties are affiliated with Florida State and appear to be true third parties to the case. As these third parties conduct the hearing, they will be presented with evidence and hear testimony. Therefore, the university is limiting any potential bias that may favor either party with the hot mess of media coverage and the federal investigation of the school's compliance practices, but outsourcing the job should protect the university a tiny bit more since it could then avoid scrutiny for its processes. It is still under federal investigation, after all, and could be a co-defendant of Winston's if lawsuits are brought. Unaffiliated people making the decision could be very detrimental to Winston despite reportedly being at the request of both his attorneys and the female accuser.
Second, with the possible punishments ranging anywhere from verbal reprimand to expulsion, it would not be surprising if Winston chose to grab an agent and enter the 2015 NFL Draft. The main downside could be putting his Heisman Trophy at risk to where it could be revoked or given the Reggie Bush stigma. Worthwhile things have opportunity costs, though.
Leaving Florida State would take away the possibility of the ACC or NCAA investigating and punishing Winston any further. The moment a student-athlete leaves a NCAA member institution, the root of the NCAA's jurisdiction over that student-athlete leaves with him or her. Hearings can still be conducted, but without Winston's mandatory presence, the investigation would be limited and would exclude critical evidence. Winston has incentives to avoid plaguing his career with harsh and unpredictable NCAA punishments that could hinder his bright professional career prospects.
Furthermore, since the university disciplinary hearing is a fact-finding process, any evidence can be subpoenaed by his accuser or law enforcement officials and used in a civil or criminal lawsuit against him. Even if after being investigated Winston was found to violate Florida State's student code of conduct, the Fifth Amendment's Double Jeopardy clause would not apply because that investigation is not the same as a trial for criminal conduct. Any evidence presented and testimony heard at Florida State's investigation could lead law enforcement officials to look further into the case and, eventually, lay criminal charges on him. Therefore, in order to limit the amount of evidence that could be presented in the university's investigation overtime, Winston may attempt to run away from the case as quickly as possible. Running away would essentially imply that he was guilty, but reputation concerns from disgruntled fans and a loss of collegiate development experience likely would not place as great of a detrimental effect on his professional career prospects as an official "guilty" finding would place.
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