Criticism of university's conduct prompts review

Updated: August 23, 2003, 2:38 AM ET
Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State President T.K. Wetherell on Friday ordered a review of university policies in the aftermath of a highly publicized rape trial involving two student-athletes that left prosecutors complaining the school tried to keep the case out of court.

A report by the school's inspector general criticized Florida State's handling of the case and Wetherell said he wants policies clarified to make sure the school avoids any similar missteps in the future.

"Our students are our primary concern," he said. "Their health and well-being are paramount in our decisions."

Wetherell said General Counsel Betty Steffens will direct a task force to make recommendations with special concern for the rights of victims.

The rape case in question was heard last week in Leon County Court where junior nose guard Travis Johnson was acquitted by a jury of six women in less than 30 minutes. Although he and the 6-foot-2, 240-pound female shot putter had had sex on five previous occasions, the woman said they had sex without her consent on Feb. 6.

Inspector general David Coury said the school's athletic department failed to report the rape allegation by the female athlete -- although she initially did not want it reported to authorities.

The female athlete initially sought to have Johnson removed from campus, the report said.

Coury said in his report written April 24 that the woman believed associate athletic director Pam Overton misled her and that the athletic department was more concerned about Johnson's welfare.

Overton, however, said she "acted in the best interest" of the woman and immediately referred her to the school's counseling center.

The IG report noted that Overton does not serve as a counselor and should have promptly informed police of the female athlete's allegation.

Although notified by Overton, neither athletic director David Hart Jr. nor associate AD Charlie Carr followed, the report said.

An adult and championship-caliber athlete herself, the woman eventually became frustrated with how the athletic department was handling her accusation and reported it herself.

After the trial, Leon County prosecutor Adam Ruiz accused school officials of attempting to avoid embarrassing publicity by trying to broker a deal with the woman athlete so she wouldn't press charges.

Such a proposal was offered by Florida State's vice president for student affairs, Mary Coburn, in a Feb. 27 e-mail.

The e-mail stipulated that "all parties agree to keep this matter confidential" and "not pursue any further legal action."

State Attorney Willie Meggs is considering possible legal action against the school if it's determined they indeed interfered in the legal process. Meggs and Wetherell met earlier in the week to discuss the matter.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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