Prosecution, defense lay out different accounts of encounter in ex-QB's case

2013-02-11T08:21:00Z 2014-03-14T16:08:09Z Prosecution, defense lay out different accounts of encounter in ex-QB's caseBy GWEN FLORIO Missoulian The Billings Gazette
February 11, 2013 8:21 am  • 

MISSOULA — She said no, again and again, both in words and by pushing him away.

“This case is about a young woman who was horribly betrayed by someone she trusted,” prosecuting attorney Adam Duerk said in his opening statement Monday in the rape trial of former University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson.

She was hurt because there was “no discussion of whether she was satisfied, no cuddling” after they had sex.

“This is a case that is not about rape, but about a girl’s regret amidst a brewing storm,” defense attorney Kirsten Pabst said in her own opening statement.

As to the woman herself, in the short time she was on the witness stand Monday — her testimony will continue Wednesday, when the trial resumes — she said only that while she’d always found Johnson a nice, albeit quiet, guy, and that she was “intrigued” by the possibility of a relationship, she didn’t think they would do more than some “making out” on the night of Feb. 4, 2012.

Johnson is accused of assaulting the woman, a fellow UM student, as the two watched a movie at her home that night. She went to police in March; the Missoula County Attorney’s Office filed a charge of sexual intercourse without consent against Johnson in July.

By then, the U.S. Department of Justice had launched an investigation — the “brewing storm” to which Pabst referred — into how sexual assaults were handled by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, the Missoula Police Department and the UM campus police.

Attorneys made their opening statements Monday afternoon after spending the morning finishing the process of jury selection, which began Friday with a pool of about 170 people whittled down from the initial call to 400.

Early Monday afternoon, a jury of seven women and five men was seated, along with five alternates. The unusually large number of alternates takes into account the fact that the trial could last two or three weeks.

Although Duerk cautioned jurors in his opening statement that the trial was not about the woman, much of both opening statements focused on her actions that night.

Both sides agree on the following:

That the evening began with a series of casual texts over the course of a few hours that culminated when she picked up Johnson at his place and drove him back to hers to watch the movie.

On the way into the house, they greeted her male roommate, who was playing a video game. (Another male roommate was in his room at the time.)

The two went into the woman’s room and watched the movie for a while. They began kissing, and took off their shirts. And that’s where the accounts diverge, at least until the point where the woman texts her roommate, “omg ... I think I might have just gotten raped ... he kept pushing and pushing and I said no but he wouldn’t listen ... I just wanna cry ... Omg what do I do!”

Her version, according to Duerk: Johnson got aggressive, pinned her to the bed, pulled down her leggings, and forced her into sex in two positions. “It got really scary, really fast,” Duerk said the woman reported. “The defendant said, ‘Turn over or I’ll make you.’ … She was scared, she was in shock and starting to shut down, but she said, ‘No.’ ”

His version, according to Pabst: He went to her house expecting they would have sex. At first she said, “No, Jordy, not tonight. Later.” But then both became aroused and the woman — topless — climbed onto Johnson. When he asked about a condom, she indicated it was OK without one. And when he turned her over to continue sex, she called him bad “in a flirting tone.”

“Her message to Jordan at every turn was that she was willing and she was into it,” Pabst said.

At least, until afterward. “Suddenly it seemed to her that maybe her feelings didn’t matter. Sadly, it seemed they didn’t,” Pabst said. She said the woman’s feelings seemed to have changed in the swirl of publicity surrounding Johnson’s arrest.

“Her regret was replaced by sympathy and attention and support and a little bit of drama and a little bit of celebrity,” Pabst said. “… She found a new identity: victim.”

The woman herself will not testify about the further details of that night until the trial resumes Wednesday. Missoula County District Judge Karen Townsend’s regular court day is Tuesday, and she will keep to that schedule.

Although no defendant is required to testify in his own trial — and jurors are instructed to draw no conclusions if a defendant chooses not to — Pabst indicated at least twice Monday that Johnson eventually will take the stand during the trial.

He remains a student at the university, although he was suspended from the football team after being charged in the case.

The woman likewise is continuing her studies. The two remain under a civil no-contact agreement.

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