MISSOULA — University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson, accused in March of rape, was formally charged late Tuesday afternoon with sexual intercourse without consent.
The felony charge that carries a potential life sentence was filed just before the close of business in Missoula County District Court by Suzy Boylan, assistant chief deputy county attorney.
Johnson was immediately suspended from the Grizzlies football team, which is scheduled to start practice Monday, said UM President Royce Engstrom. That suspension continues until the outcome of legal proceedings.
Montana head football coach Mick Delaney declined to comment specifically on Johnson. However, he did address the impact of Johnson’s suspension heading into Monday’s preseason workouts.
“In our profession you have to be prepared to face the unexpected,” the coach said. “This being the unexpected, we’ll make an adjustment.”
David Paoli, Johnson’s attorney, released a statement saying that “Jordan and his family are surprised and saddened by the county’s decision to levy a criminal charge now, given that the encounter between Jordan and the complainant occurred in early February and the police have been aware of the allegation since she filed a report six weeks later.”
Johnson maintains his innocence, Paoli said.
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The charging documents outline an incident that allegedly occurred Feb. 4 in Missoula.
In the affidavit, Boylan described a chain of events that began with a text message from Johnson suggesting that he and the alleged victim get together that night. They decided to watch a movie at her house, and she picked him up because he’d been drinking and didn’t want to drive, according to the affidavit.
One of the woman’s roommates was asleep, the other was playing video games in the living room, it said.
Johnson began kissing the woman as they watched a movie in her room, it said. Although she first kissed him back, she then said, “Let’s just watch the movie,” the affidavit said.
“She tried to keep things light and tried to discourage his advances,” according to the affidavit.
Although the woman said she told him “no” repeatedly, he persisted, saying at one point, “I will make you,” it said. Then he raped her, it said.
The documents described the woman as feeling “scared and ‘shut down,’” and said, “She was afraid he would hit her if she resisted further.”
Afterward, according to the affidavit, the woman texted her roommate in the living room, saying “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!”
She drove Johnson home that night and the next morning went to UM’s Student Assault Resource Center and then to the First Step center for a medical examination, it said.
Since then, “she has sought counseling and has shown signs of depression, panic, and post-traumatic stress disorder consistent with Rape Trauma Syndrome,” it said.
Johnson told Missoula police detectives the woman was an active participant and that “he stopped communicating with her after he had sex with her because he liked another girl and thought she would be upset if she knew he had sex with” the alleged victim, the affidavit said.
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Paoli said Johnson “looks forward to the opportunity to prove his innocence at trial, clear his name and return to pursuing his education.”
It’s unclear if that will be possible. Engstrom said Tuesday that federal privacy rules prevent him from disclosing whether Johnson has been expelled.
UM interim athletic director Jean Gee said she’s had no contact with Johnson, and that she had “no indication from Jordan or his family or his attorney” that he’d be charged.
“There’s a process in place legally for both sides,” she said. “It’s part of why we all love living in this country. We have protection both ways,” she said.
She said UM would await the outcome of legal proceedings and make a decision afterward.
Johnson is set to appear Aug. 14 in Missoula County District Court. No bail was set, as Johnson’s attorney assured the state his client would appear. Sexual intercourse without consent carries a maximum penalty of 100 years or life in prison, and a $50,000 fine.
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For months now, Johnson and the woman have been under a civil no-contact order filed in late March. It replaced a temporary restraining order against Johnson from Missoula Municipal Court, granted on an allegation of sexual assault.
Johnson was briefly suspended from the team after the restraining order was filed, but former head coach Robin Pflugrad reinstated him when it was lifted. During his first scrimmage with the team after being reinstated, Pflugrad called Johnson a person of “character and tremendous moral fiber.”
Five days later, Engstrom fired Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O’Day, saying only that he wanted change.
Johnson is the second member of the team to face a rape charge. In January, running back Beau Donaldson was charged with sexual intercourse without consent. Donaldson, also suspended from the team, is to go on trial in September.
Both cases come amid a heightened focus on sexual assault at UM and in Missoula. Earlier this year, UM commissioned an outside report on allegations of sexual assault and gang rape involving students, including football players.
The U.S. Department of Education is investigating how UM dealt with allegations of harassment by the football team, while the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the way UM campus police, the Missoula Police Department and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office handle reports of rape and sexual assault.
And, the NCAA announced Monday it is continuing an investigation, begun in January, into unspecified allegations against UM’s football program.
The charging documents filed Tuesday against Johnson list as potential witnesses UM legal counsel David Aronofsky and former UM Dean of Students Charles Couture.
Couture’s job was posted in March without any official retirement announcement after it was revealed that the dean – in accordance with UM’s Student Conduct Code – informed a Saudi exchange student he’d been accused of raping another student. But UM did not notify police and the man left the country.
In June, Engstrom announced that Aronofsky would retire as legal counsel Dec. 31, but will work at UM for another 18 months in international programs.
Missoulian reporter Bill Speltz contributed to this story. Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @CopsAndCourts.