Florida WR Antonio Callaway cleared of sexual assault in Title IX hearing

ByMark Schlabach ESPN logo
Friday, August 12, 2016

An independent hearing officer found Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway not responsible of sexually assaulting a female student in December, according to a ruling obtained by ESPN on Friday.

Callaway, a sophomore from Miami, was accused of sexual misconduct by the woman in December. The woman and her witnesses boycotted Callaway's student conduct hearing in Gainesville, Florida, last week because the university appointed a Gators football booster to adjudicate the case.

Callaway and the woman were notified of the decision Friday morning. It wasn't immediately known if Callaway would be fully reinstated to Florida's football team or face additional discipline.

According to the ruling made by Jackonsville attorney Jake Schickel, Callaway was cleared of three violations of Florida's student conduct code: conduct causing physical injury or endangering another's health or safety, sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

In his ruling, Schickel wrote that the woman stated "she did not consent because of intoxication and/or force, however the totality of the evidence suggest the contrary and she was not intoxicated to the extent she could not consent." Schickel also wrote that the woman's "own text messages indicated that she was pretending to be intoxicated."

Schickel also wrote that his impression was that Callaway was "honest, sincere, and presented himself well." According to the ruling, Callaway testified that he was "high on marijuana" during the encounter, and stated that he was "so stoned I had no interest in having sex with anyone."

"We would have been surprised if any other outcome would have occurred," said John Clune, the woman's attorney. "The whole situation is a disgrace and disservice to everybody involved in this process. It doesn't matter how competent someone is, if they have a bias you can't remove that bias. The school knows better, and they owe the female students at UF better than this. It sends the wrong message."

The woman has 10 business days to appeal the decision. Clune didn't indicate whether she would.

In a statement provided to ESPN on Friday, Callaway's attorney, Huntley Johnson, said of the ruling: "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."

Clune said his client was trying to decide whether to re-enroll at Florida for classes this fall.

The university issued a statement Friday saying it "will not tolerate sexual assault" and that it "thoroughly investigates every allegation in receives through the student conduct and Title IX processes."

Last week, Clune objected to Florida appointing Schickel as a hearing officer in the case. Schickel has a bachelor's degree in political science and law degree from Florida. He is also a past trustee of Florida's Levin College of Law.

A former track and field athlete at Florida, Schickel, 68, is a Scholarship Club donor to Florida Football Boosters, which requires annual contributions of $4,800 to $8,599, according to a 2014-15 Year In Review program published by the UF athletics department. According to the documents, Schickel is also a 3-Point Club donor to Florida basketball, which requires annual contributions of $2,000 to $4,999.

In January, Florida suspended Callaway and former Gators quarterback Treon Harris for violating the school's code of conduct policy. They were barred from campus and took online courses during the suspension. According to sources, the woman reported the incident to Florida's student conduct and conflict resolution office in early December. She didn't report the incident to police.

Gainesville police and University of Florida police previously confirmed to ESPN that they didn't have reports related to the alleged incident.

Harris, a junior from Miami, was also accused of misconduct by the woman. He announced last month that he was leaving Florida and transferring to another school. Sources familiar with the case told ESPN that Harris agreed to leave Florida as part of a plea deal related to the Title IX case. He also apologized to the woman, the sources said.

As a freshman last season, Callaway was Florida's leading receiver with 35 catches for 678 yards with four touchdowns in 14 games. He also returned two punts for touchdowns. He was suspended from participating in football activities and missed spring practice before returning to campus for classes in June.

Callaway practiced with the Gators for the first time this year on Wednesday, but hasn't been fully reinstated to the team, according to Gators coach Jim McElwain.