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Antonio Callaway found not responsible in sexual assault investigation

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NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway was found not responsible as the result of an August 5 student conduct code hearing into an allegation of sexual assault brought against him by a fellow Florida student, Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Baker obtained the decision written by Jacksonville attorney Jake Schickel, the presiding officer in the hearing whose status as a Florida booster was cited by the woman alleging against Callaway as the reason she boycotted last Friday’s meeting.

Schickel writes that he declined to recuse himself over the wishes of the woman’s lawyer, Title IX specialist John Clune.

Immediately prior to the hearing I was provided a letter which was made part of the record from Mr. Clune, asking me to recuse myself. I denied the request. While he 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. The issue is an alleged conduct violation by Mr. Callaway .

The document makes key details of the allegation against Callaway public knowledge for the first time. Callaway was accused of violating Florida’s student conduct code by causing physical injury, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct. The complaint against him to the University of Florida was dated January 27, 2016.

Schickel writes that “the totality of the evidence,” including ER reports and “her own text messages” from the night in question that “indicated she was pretending to be intoxicated” suggests that the woman was not intoxicated enough that she could not consent. Further, he writes that inconsistencies in the woman’s text messages partially comprise a timeline that “do(es) not support her contentions of force or an inability to consent.”

Schickel also writes that Callaway testified that he had a consensual sexual encounter with the woman on the night in question, that the woman in question was the aggressor in that encounter, and that — as he was “faded as fuck” on marijuana, per the woman’s account — “I was so stoned I had no interest in having sex with anyone.”

Schickel writes that Callaway was “honest, sincere, and presented himself well” and was the only live witness at the hearing.

Schickel concludes that, by the University’s standard of preponderance of the evidence, the burden of proof was not met, and thus finds Callaway not responsible for the claims in question.

The attorneys representing both sides in the case both spoke on the ruling on Friday. Huntley Johnson, representing Callaway, issued a statement with his typical bombast.

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 take their witnesses and go elsewhere.' They need to be careful what they wish for.

Clune’s quote to Baker, despite using the word “disgrace” to describe Florida’s Title IX process “ever since we found out they were having a booster hear the case,” is somewhat more subdued.

"It wasn't exactly a news flash that Mr. Callaway was going to be found not responsible," Clune said. "It just seems like this whole situation, ever since we found out they were having a booster hear the case, is a disgrace, and it's a disservice to everybody who is involved in this process."

Clune’s history suggests that the potential of civil litigation against Florida and a Title IX complaint made to the federal Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights still loom.

Callaway being cleared by Florida’s process likely means his full return to eligibility with the Gators program — reported as likely earlier this month — is nigh. Callaway was suspended (along with Treon Harris) in January in conjunction with the incident, and did not practice with the team in the spring, but has gradually returned to the fold, returning to classes during a summer term and participating in fall practice.