An attorney representing one of the four Minnesota Gophers football players cleared last week of alleged sexual misconduct called Saturday for additional safeguards for students facing similar accusations.
“Although we’re pleased with the outcome, the process isn’t fair,” said Ryan Pacyga, an attorney for Antoine Winfield Jr. “We can do better.”
During a news conference at the University of Minnesota, Pacyga cited what he called a lack of due process involved in Title IX hearings and criticized what he described as “no presumption of innocence.”
He said interviews with the university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action department should be recorded, for instance, and that a student’s attorney should be present during such interviews.
On Friday, a University of Minnesota disciplinary panel cleared Winfield, who is the son of former Vikings player Antoine Winfield Sr., and three of his teammates who had faced accusations of sexual misconduct in the alleged assault on a female student.
The woman reported that she was sexually assaulted by a series of men Sept. 2 at a postgame party at an off-campus apartment, while others watched from the bedroom doorway. The accused men said the sexual contact was consensual, but the university had recommended that all 10 should be disciplined for violating the student code of conduct.
On Friday, the panel ruled in favor of Winfield, Seth Green, Kobe McCrary, Antonio Shenault, their attorneys said. However, it upheld the recommended expulsion of four other players — Ray Buford, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson, and a one-year suspension for Mark Williams. The panel also reduced the recommended punishment for Carlton Djam from expulsion to a one-year suspension, according to Pacyga.
Under university rules, the students have the right to appeal to Provost Karen Hanson. Their attorneys also have raised the possibility that they may challenge the university’s action in federal court.
On Saturday, Pacyga reaffirmed Winfield’s decision to remain at the university. “He wants to play football here,” he said, adding that the process to clear his name will continue.
“Their names are going to be attached to these allegations for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Pacyga said Winfield continues to receive “graphic” and threatening messages over social media platforms such as Twitter.
“It’s been a long haul for Antoine,” Pacyga said.