April 17, 2015 / 12:37 AM / 2 years ago

Rape accuser sues quarterback Winston before NFL draft

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - College football star quarterback Jameis Winston, a contender for the top pick in the upcoming National Football League draft, was sued on Thursday in Florida court by a woman who says he raped her in 2012.

The lawsuit, which seeks financial damages, comes at a time of increased scrutiny of the NFL's handling of allegations of rape and domestic violence by its players.

Winston, 21, did not face criminal charges in the alleged rape and was cleared of any conduct code violations as a student at Florida State University, but the incident continues to draw wide media attention. He has said the sexual encounter was consensual.

The woman, Erica Kinsman, filed the lawsuit in a state court in Orlando, in part seeking to force Winston to answer questions under oath about what happened, said her attorney, John Clune.

"She wants Mr. Winston to be held accountable for what he did, and nobody else has seemed that motivated to do that so far," Clune said.

A representative for Winston could not immediately be reached for comment.

During a student conduct hearing last fall, Winston did not answer questions but detailed in a statement his version of the December 2012 encounter after the pair met at a bar near campus.

At the time, she was a freshman at Florida State, where he was a promising recruit.

Winston went on to win in 2013 the Heisman Trophy as the top U.S. college football player, and he is widely considered a leading choice for the top NFL draft pick, held by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As his football career has soared, Winston has faced questions about his off-the-field behavior in college. He was given a one-game suspension for yelling a vulgar phrase in a campus courtyard and was issued a civil citation in a supermarket shoplifting incident.

The NFL draft, starting on April 30, factored into the timing of the lawsuit, Clune said, noting Kinsman did not want to be accused of protecting Winston until he secured a lucrative contract.

In 2013, a Florida state attorney determined there was insufficient evidence to press criminal charges against Winston. A student conduct code hearing looking into the charges also cleared him.

Kinsman is also suing Florida State over the rape allegations under Title IX, which requires colleges receiving federal funds to promptly investigate sexual abuse complaints.

Reporting by Letitia Stein; Additional reporting by Bill Cotterell in Tallahassee, Fla.; Editing by Mary Milliken and Eric Beech

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