Judge won't give former UM QB all of accuser's texts

2012-11-27T14:51:00Z 2013-03-01T15:55:08Z Judge won't give former UM QB all of accuser's textsGWEN FLORIO Missoulian The Billings Gazette
November 27, 2012 2:51 pm  • 

MISSOULA — A Missoula County District Court judge has denied a request by former University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson for the text messages of a woman who’s accused him of rape.

Johnson is set to go on trial Feb. 8, 2013, in Missoula County District Court on a single charge of sexual intercourse without consent in connection with a Feb. 4, 2012, incident at a fellow student’s home.

At issue in the case are 29,000 text messages downloaded by police from the woman’s phone. Lawyers for the state reviewed them and redacted many, and forwarded the rest to the defense. But Johnson’s team wanted the redacted texts, too, as well as messages to the present day.

Missoula County District Judge Karen Townsend rejected that request as moot. She also denied defense requests for a copy of the messages in chronological order, for any text messages after May 25, and to appoint a special master for the text messages.

“The court determines that it agrees with the state’s redactions in both the text messages sent from and received on the victim’s cell phone. The court finds that none of the messages redacted contain exculpatory material” — that is, favorable to Johnson, she wrote in the order issued under seal Nov. 21.

“Therefore, the privacy rights in the content of the communications of both the victim and the individuals with whom she communicated are paramount and the defendant is not entitled to view the redacted text messages.”

According to Townsend’s order, Johnson’s defense sought access to the woman’s most recent text messages to determine if she’d been tampering with potential witnesses.

“The defendant offers no examples of claimed tampering and in the court’s review of the messages, the court found no evidence to even hint at the time that the victim was trying to manipulate witness testimony,” she wrote.

Townsend ordered the state to provide the defense with the names and contact information of people with whom the woman exchanged text messages between April 7, 2011, and May 25, 2012.

She has yet to rule on a motion from the state seeking information from Johnson’s defense attorneys, David Paoli and Kirsten Pabst.

Prosecutors seek contact information on defense witnesses, experts and their reports, along with papers, documents, interview tapes and photos. Two requests for that information were ignored and the third received a response late last month to the effect that the defense “will work on it,” according to the motion filed by Assistant Attorney General Joel Thompson.

“The state of Montana has provided the defendant with thousands of pages of discovery (evidence) in this matter. The defendant has not provided the state with any discovery whatsoever,” wrote Thompson, appointed a special deputy Missoula County attorney in the Johnson case.

The Missoula County Attorney’s Office also filed notice that it intends to call as an expert witness David Lisak, a Massachusetts psychologist who’s a national expert on acquaintance rape.

According to the document from the county attorney’s office, Lisak will testify to help “dispel myths” about rape and a victim’s behavior after an assault.

Johnson maintains that he and the woman had consensual sex. He was suspended from the UM football team after being charged in July. He and the woman continue to attend classes on campus, but remain under a civil no-contact order.

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