Lawyers for Florida quarterback, accuser, dispute payoff proposal

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 24, 2014 6:26 PM

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - Lawyers involved in the case over rape accusations against Florida State University star quarterback, Jameis Winston, angrily accused each other of seeking a financial payoff to silence his female accuser, according to documents obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

The Heisman Trophy-winning athlete was asked to pay $7 million to win the silence of the woman who claimed he raped her, Winston's lawyer, David Cornwell, wrote in a 13-page letter dated on Tuesday.

A scanned copy of the letter was provided to Reuters by a Colorado law firm representing Winston's female accuser.

However, one of the accuser's Boulder attorneys, Baine Kerr, told Reuters that it was Cornwell who first suggested the payoff at a meeting earlier this year.

"It was entirely at his (Cornwell's) initiative," Kerr said.

Cornwell did not immediately return a call on Wednesday seeking comment on the letter, but he used his Twitter page to say he planned to provide the university with evidence of the "latest lie" in the case.

The legal spat comes days after Winston was benched for one game after shouting obscenities in the student union plaza. The case came amid widespread criticism of how the National Football League handles domestic violence and other abuse by its players.

The school in Tallahassee, in northern Florida, is investigating the alleged rape in December 2012.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights launched its own investigation into the way Florida State handled the case. Winston's lawyer confirmed on Tuesday via Twitter that he is cooperating in that investigation.

Winston "looks forward to clearing his name," Cornwell wrote.

The disputed settlement proposal occurred in February, two months after Winston was cleared in a criminal probe when a Florida state attorney determined there was insufficient evidence to charge him.

FSU declined to release the letter from Winston's attorney, noting that it was confidential and exempt from state public records law.

"We have explored the possibility of redacting the document, but doing so will not protect the identity of the students involved," the university said in an email.

Winston’s accuser has since withdrawn from the university. Winston's DNA was found in her underwear, although his attorneys maintained the sexual encounter was consensual.

(Editing by Letitia Stein, David Adams and Ken Wills)