University of Montana quarterback pleads not guilty to rape

Wed Aug 8, 2012 1:31am EDT

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(Reuters) - Attorneys for a University of Montana quarterback who pleaded not guilty to charges of rape said in court papers filed on Tuesday that text messages sent by his accuser after the sexual encounter undermine her allegations of assault.

Defense attorneys have asked a state judge in Missoula to dismiss the rape charge against suspended quarterback Jordan Johnson and said the sexual encounter was consensual.

Johnson, the school's former football team captain, is the second member of his squad facing rape charges amid federal investigations into the handling of sexual assault reports by university and local authorities.

Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg charged Johnson, 20, last week based on claims by a fellow student - identified in court papers as Jane Doe - that Johnson raped her while they were watching a movie in her bedroom in February.

The woman repeatedly responded to Johnson's sexual advances by saying, "No, not tonight," according to a sworn statement by prosecutors. She said Johnson later raped her.

"She felt scared and 'shut down.' She stopped resisting at this point," according to the affidavit.

Johnson's attorneys said the woman, intoxicated, had approached him the day before the encounter and flirted with him.

The charges against Johnson came as the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the handling of more than 80 reported rapes in Missoula, many of them not related to the campus, during the past three years. The investigation is tied to complaints by unnamed sources that authorities were failing to aggressively investigate sexual assault claims.

That probe and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education is set to examine how officials at the 15,600-student campus in western Montana responded to at least 11 student-related sexual assaults reported there since 2010.

The spate of alleged rapes, the implication of student athletes in some of them, and the abrupt dismissal in March of the football coach and athletic director has shaken the campus and battered the image of a school celebrated for its Big Sky Conference championship football team, the Montana Grizzlies.

TEXT MESSAGES

At least three of those involved rape accusations against University of Montana Grizzly players, including Johnson and running back Beau Donaldson, who was charged in January with raping a woman at his residence while she slept.

He, too, has pleaded not guilty. Both players have been suspended from the team pending the outcome of criminal proceedings.

In the Johnson case, defense attorneys described the sexual encounter as consensual.

Afterward, when Johnson went into the bathroom, the woman texted a roommate in an adjoining room that she was raped, prosecutors said in the affidavit.

Prosecutors said the woman was in shock and wanted Johnson out of her house, so she drove Johnson home afterwards. Defense attorneys said she did so only "after fixing herself a snack in her kitchen and eating it."

She sent text messages to a friend three days later, according to defense attorneys, in which she describes Johnson's likely reaction to rape allegations: "It will hit him like a ton of bricks which I'm okay with... I don't think he did anything wrong to be honest... he didn't show any remorse or anything."

U.S. authorities have said they are seeking to determine if gender discrimination was at issue in the handling of sexual assault reports by the university and in Missoula as a whole.

In January, the governing body of U.S. college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, notified the university it was conducting an investigation of the football program.

(Editing by Mary Slosson, Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

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