University of Florida wide receiver and Booker T. Washington High grad Antonio Callaway faced a Title IX hearing on Friday over a sexual assault accusation from December.
But his complainant, along with her parents and five witnesses, boycotted the hearing because a Gators football booster was appointed to formally rule on the case, according to an ESPN report.
Florida officials appointed Jacksonville-based attorney Jake Schickel to serve as a hearing officer. According to a UF 2014-15 athletic year in review guide, Schickel is a Scholarship club level donor to the Florida Football Boosters, a status that requires an annual donation between $4,800 and $8,599. He is also a three-point club level donor to the basketball team, which requires a yearly donation between $2,000 and $4,999.
John Clune, a Colorado-based attorney representing the complainant, cited conflict of interest as the complainant’s reason for the boycott.
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“This has been a difficult decision but as I previously indicated to you, the fact that UF has hired a football booster to adjudicate a sexual assault charge against one of the team’s own football players is a fundamentally skewed process in which [the complainant] refuses to participate,” Clune wrote in a letter sent Friday morning to UF deputy general counsel Amy Hass which was first reported by ESPN.
Schickel, 68, graduated from UF’s Levin College of Law in 1972 and served as a trustee to the law school from 1998-2004, according to his bio on the law firm’s website. He has also worked as an Assistant State Attorney and Chief Assistant Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit during his law career.
"To be clear, this letter is not intended to cast any aspersions about Mr. Schickel's character or his service to his alma mater," Clune wrote in an Aug. 2 letter to Hass obtained by ESPN. "However, UF should never have asked him to serve as an objective reviewer and decision-maker on this matter when the claim has been brought against a star member of the very team for which both he and his law partners have provided considerable financial support.
UF wrote in a statement that is could not comment on student disciplinary matters under state law. The school did note that its student conduct process could be handled by a hearing officer — which could be a university employee or an outside professional — or by a committee of faculty and staff.
“Any hearing officer and all committee members are trained and vetted for their impartiality,” UF wrote in the statement. “A hearing officer or committee member would not be disqualified or lack objectivity simply because he or she had been a student athlete decades earlier or purchases athletic tickets as more than 90,000 people do each year.”
UF suspended Callaway and former Gators quarterback Treon Harris on Jan. 27 for violating student code of conduct policy. During that time, they were barred from campus and were unable to take in-person classes or participate in football activities.
Callaway was allowed to return to campus in June and practiced with the team on Thursday, the Gators’ first day of summer camp. He is not fully reinstated on the team at this point.
Huntley Johnson, serving as Callaway’s attorney, and his office issued a press release after reading Clune’s letter, calling the actions “inappropriate and an attempt at intimidation.”
“Since the complainant’s attorney has chosen to go to the press in this matter, we assume that he will be releasing the hundreds of pages that made up the University of Florida’s investigation. We assume that he will be releasing the sworn affidavits in this case. We assume that he will be releasing the complainant’s text messages in the investigation. We assume that he will be releasing the complainant’s multitude of varying and conflicting stories,” the release read. "We are not going to besmirch his client in the press. The totality of the investigation which is over 1,000 pages will do that for us.
The complainant also cited Harris in the sexual assault case. Harris transferred from UF on July 25, and ESPN reported — citing anonymous sources — that his transferring served as part of a plea deal in the Title IX case.