Image Credit: ESPN Images
For all intents and purposes, the uncertainty regarding Florida Gators sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway‘s eligibility to play this season is over.
Callaway on Friday was cleared in a University of Florida Title IX sexual assault investigation and ruled not to have violated the school’s student code of conduct.
Below is a breakdown of what you need to know about the ruling and where everything goes from here.
There were three student code of conduct violations for which Callaway was charged and cleared. The basis for the alleged victim’s claim against Callaway was sexual assault. As such, he was also being investigated on sexual misconduct and conduct causing physical injury. Callaway submitted a countercomplaint against the accuser for an undisclosed reason, which is still pending as Callaway’s hearing had to first be completed. Medical tests performed at a hospital did not suggest injuries, nor did provided statements. There was not enough evidence to prove a sexual assault had taken place. “I do find the parties engaged in sexual intercourse. At issue is consent and injuries. … From the totality of evidence I find that the burden of proof was not met and I find Mr. Callaway not responsible,” wrote the hearing officer, Jake Schickel.
Not about “guilt.” Code of conduct hearings do not determine guilt or innocence; that is for a court of law. These hearings have a lower burden of proof than criminal case. The hearing officer is ruling whether there is a preponderance of evidence or it is “more likely or not” that a particular incident occurred and rules were violated. In this case, there did not appear to be enough evidence for Schickel to rule against Callaway. Among the things Schickel considered …
– The accuser “was at Mr. Callaway’s residence voluntarily and not at the request of Mr. Callaway.”
– The accuser “was not detained at any point.”
– The accuser did not “ask for help from any of the other persons present including another woman.”
– The timeline of text messages “do not support [the accuser’s] contentions of force or an inability to consent. They are inconsistent, initially reported being forced to have sex and then some time later indicated that she thought she was going to be forced to have sex. Another time she stated that she wasn’t sure if she had been raped.”
Marijuana was involved — at least for one party. Part of Callaway’s defense was that he was “so stoned I had no interest in having sex with anyone.” On the other hand, the ruling notes that the accuser admitted she had faked intoxication through text messages and medical tests proved she was not under the influence. “The totality of the evidence suggest … she was not intoxicated to the extent she could not consent. The affidavits all indicated that [the accuser] did not appear intoxicated. Further her own text messages indicated that she was pretending to be intoxicated,” wrote Schickel. Here is the exact passage.
Both Mr. Callaway and [the accuser] admitted he was high on marijuana. She stated, he was “faded as fuck”. He stated, I was so stoned I had no interest in having sex with anyone”. He stated she was the aggressor.
A third-party Title IX officer ruled on the investigation. Schickel, a 68-year-old attorney who was a track & field athlete at Florida and is a Gators season ticket holder (and therefore categorized as a booster) was the party responsible for hearing and ruling on the investigation. This assignment drew understandable ire from both the accuser’s attorney (due to bias, whether perceived or actual) and the media (for the same reasons). Many student conduct cases at Florida are ruled on by either a student committee, assistant dean or the dean of students, so using a third-party in this case is an interesting decision. Schickel wrote that he was asked to recuse himself but did not feel that he was a partial party.
While [the accuser’s attorney] did not impugn my integrity, he was concerned with bias. I recounted my experience training, education and life involvements and indicated that I did not believe that I would be biased in any way in favor of or against any of the parties. I have prosecuted rape cases, I have sat in judgment of lawyers. My family has dealt with rape issues. Note that this was a Student Conduct Hearing which is often held by a member of the university community.
Callaway still received some discipline. The code of conduct complaint was submitted to UF in December, and Callaway was indefinitely suspended from the program in January. He missed the entire spring and Summer A semester before returning to team activities and classes on campus in June during Summer B.
Callaway can still be suspended. Now that the conduct hearing is over, head football coach Jim McElwain must decide whether to further discipline Callaway. Considering the player’s comments about marijuana usage — and that usage now public knowledge — it would not be a surprise if he misses a game. Florida opens on Sept. 3 against UMass.
Jeremy Foley is “furious” … at Florida for making a horrible decision on a hearing officer after seemingly doing a great job on the investigation up to this point. Sources told OnlyGators.com that even the accuser’s attorney was pleased with UF’s investigation until learning of the hearing officer it appointed.
Callaway’s attorney remains defiant in the face of the allegations. Huntley Johnson, a Gainesville-based lawyer who has represented Callaway since the start, maintained his client’s innocence from the very beginning. He said from the get go that there was no evidence against Callaway and the allegations lacked merit based on everything he knew about the case. This steadfast position has remained from Johnson throughout, and he recently dared the accuser’s lawyer to publicly release the investigation documents. Following reports of UF’s decision Friday, Johnson released the following statement.
The complainant’s advisor has gone out of his way to distort Mr. Callaway’s actions. Please allow us to level the playing field. This decision by the hearing officer reflects only a fraction of the evidence which is not favorable to the complainant. The young lady’s advisor has said, “they will take their witnesses and go elsewhere.” They need to be careful what they wish for.
The accuser’s attorney went on the offensive before the hearing and maintains that position. In addition to calling out UF for its appointment of the aforementioned hearing officer, the accuser’s lawyer, John Clune, announced that his client, her parents and five witnesses would boycott the hearing due to their belief that they would not receive a fair judgment, whether it was to their liking or not. Clune doubled down with his response to the decision on Friday. He is not sure of his client’s next step, but he said she may not return to school. Via the Orlando Sentinel:
No one is happy, but no one is surprised. UF seems to have gotten exactly what it wanted. … This whole situation is a disgrace and a disservice to everybody who is involved in this process. It just feels like the female students in the UF community as a whole deserve better than this.
Is this the end? State attorney Bill Cervone has called the case against Callaway “un-prosecutable.” Clune said his client is unlikely to appeal the ruling (see below) and does not plan to file a civil lawsuit against either Callaway or UF related to the case. That would appear to mark the conclusion of this incident, though Callaway’s complaint remains against his accuser. He could choose to withdraw that complaint or not participate in any hearings. Via the Orlando Sentinel:
There’s always possibilities, but this has been a really hard week for her. It’s important for me to give her some space. We can talk about options down the road. But there are no immediate plans to sue anyone.
A statement was provided to OnlyGators.com by UF on the investigation as a whole.
“The University of Florida will not tolerate sexual misconduct and thoroughly investigates every allegation it receives through the student conduct and Title IX processes. While we want to be as transparent as possible, we cannot address rumors, media reports or misleading statements from attorneys on this subject.
“We cannot confirm whether or not any allegation or student conduct investigation exists; and the university is barred from discussing specific student disciplinary cases. Federal and state law are very clear on this front and require strict confidentiality of this kind of information.
“Be assured that any situation of this serious nature reported to the university is immediately addressed following Title IX regulations, U.S. Department of Education guidelines and university policies. These policies and practices support those who report sexual misconduct of any kind and ensure a fair investigation and process for the accuser and the accused beginning with the initial report and through any appeal.
“Either side may elect to appeal the decision in a student conduct case. A written appeal must be received by the reviewing authority designated by the university within 10 business days of the decision. An appeal may be made on any or all of the following grounds:
– Violation of student rights
– New information or evidence (students who attend the hearing)
– Preponderance of evidence was met (accuser appeal) or was not met (accused appeal)
– Inappropriate sanctions imposed
“A final decision would be made within 10 business days following receipt of the complete file and any meetings with the parties. Ultimately, the reviewing authority could require a new hearing or accept, modify or reject the decision or sanction imposed.”