This post has been updated to reflect a breakdown of the settlement.
After spending months trying to get her lawsuit dismissed, Florida State University has decided to pay the woman who first accused their former star quarterback Jameis Winston of sexual assault in 2012 a settlement of $950,000. Of that sum, her attorneys will receive $700,000.
“I will always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of attending since I was little," Erica Kinsman said Monday in a statement first reported by USA Today. "I am happy that FSU has committed to continue making changes in order to ensure a safer environment for all students.” When Kinsman's allegations first became public in late 2013, there was widespread criticism of the way in which her case was handled — with some even alleging that local law enforcement did not pursue the accusations sufficiently due to Winston's sports hero status.
She recently reiterated her allegations against Winston, now a starting quarterback for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on camera in the acclaimed 2015 campus rape documentary "The Hunting Ground."
Kinsman's lawsuit was brought under a Title IX claim, which accused FSU of institutional indifference to her alleged assault. In addition to the settlement, which will cover her legal expenses, FSU has agreed to a five-year commitment to expanding programs to raise awareness and provide protection regarding sexual assault. “We have an obligation to our students, their parents and Florida taxpayers to deal with this case, as we do all litigation, in a financially responsible manner,” FSU president John Thrasher said in an official statement about the settlement. “With all the economic demands we face, at some point it doesn’t make sense to continue even though we are convinced we would have prevailed."
“She had two goals in this case — one was to hold the university accountable for what happened and the other was to force changes at Florida State,” her attorney, John Clune, told USA Today. “With this settlement, in conjunction with the [Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights] investigation, she’s done that.” Kinsman had filed a complaint with the federal department previously, and that will reportedly be unaffected by this settlement. FSU is one of more than 100 schools under investigation by the federal government for Title IX violations.
The news of this settlement comes just a couple months after Kinsman's and Winston's camps tussled over the airing of "The Hunting Ground" on CNN. Winston, who has always maintained that he and Kinsman had a consensual sexual encounter in 2012, was exonerated by FSU of any wrongdoing in 2014. He was not charged with a crime due to insufficient evidence and, through his attorneys, threatened legal action against the cable network in November of last year. Kinsman's representatives, who have sued Winston for damages, countered that "Mr. Winston should get used to the rape allegations against him because film or no film, they aren’t going away.” Winston has counter-sued Kinsman, alleging that she has "mounted a false and vicious media campaign to vilify" him.
The documentary aired as planned, but appeared to do little distract from Winston's strong rookie season in the NFL. He is widely believed to be the favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, and despite a series of high-profile off-the-field embarrassments during his FSU days, he has had an unblemished record so far as a pro-football player in the NFL.
Meanwhile, "The Hunting Ground," which has been criticized in some quarters for its veracity, will enjoy a large audience once again at the Academy Awards on Feb. 28, where it is nominated for best song for Lady Gaga's "Till it Happens to You." The pop star performed the somber ballad at this weekend's Producer's Guild Awards. She also spoke candidly about why the song's subject matter has personal significance for her.
"It's not only an important issue to me, but it's an important issue to my family because when my father's sister was in college, she was sexually assaulted," Gaga told the audience, according to People magazine."Then, it tormented her so emotionally that it caused the lupus that she had to get so bad that she died."