With acquittal, Johnson can appeal to return to Griz

2013-03-02T06:15:00Z 2014-10-08T20:21:32Z With acquittal, Johnson can appeal to return to GrizBy FRITZ NEIGHBOR Missoulian The Billings Gazette
March 02, 2013 6:15 am  • 

MISSOULA — After Friday’s verdict of not guilty in Jordan Johnson’s rape trial, one question is whether the highly recruited quarterback can return to the University of Montana football team.

Both UM President Royce Engstrom and athletic director Kent Haslam spoke about the appeal process Johnson can take to return to the field. The final decision is up to UM’s athletic conduct team, both said. But before that, Johnson has to make a decision whether to appeal his dismissal.

“Jordan will need to indicate that that’s his desire, to return to the team,” Engstrom said. “Then the athletic conduct team will listen to that and make a decision. And we’ll attend to that as quickly as we can, if that’s what Jordan wishes.”

Lane Johnson, the quarterback’s uncle who coaches Sheldon High School in Eugene, Ore., told the Missoulian on Friday that he believes Jordan Johnson wants to play football again.

Johnson was the starting quarterback in 2011, when the Griz went 11-3 and advanced to the NCAA Division I semifinals, losing 31-28 to Sam Houston State. The following March, Johnson missed part of spring drills after the filing of a restraining order by the alleged victim.

Johnson returned — via a decision of the then newly formed ACT — after the restraining order was dismissed in favor of a civil “no-contact” agreement.

That is when then-coach Robin Pflugrad spoke glowingly in defense of Johnson, a key member of his first signing class.

“I think any time you have a person of Jordy’s character and tremendous moral fiber, and he’s your team captain and part of the leadership council, your players are going to be fired up,” he said.

Three days later, on March 29, 2012, Pflugrad was fired along with athletic director Jim O’Day. On the last day of July, Johnson was charged with one count of sexual intercourse without consent in Missoula County District Court.

The trial, which began Feb. 8, has drawn national media to Missoula. The emotion of Friday’s acquittal left Mick Delaney, who replaced Pflugrad as the Grizzlies’ football coach, unwilling to talk about Johnson’s possible return.

“I just think it’s a time for the (Johnson) family to get themselves together,” he said.

Montana’s spring drills begin March 18, and Johnson conceivably could be one of four quarterbacks who participate. Shay Smithwick-Hann and Trent McKinney split the starting duties last year, and Brady Gustafson was a redshirt.

Adam Brzeczek, a third-string QB last fall, has left the program.

Johnson was suspended from the team pending the outcome of the trial. The penalty schedule for UM’s athletic code of conduct calls for dismissal from the team for a category 1 offense — if he or she “is charged with a felony and in looking at the totality of the circumstances, it is reasonable to believe the person committed the act (e.g., rape, sexual assault, other felony assault, etc.).”

The same conduct code has an appeal policy that reads, in part, “Dismissal or reduction of a criminal charge is a change of circumstance that may or may not justify revision of a suspension.”

“Any student who’s had action on or a decision made by the athletic conduct team can appeal once their circumstances change,” Haslam said. “They do that by submitting in writing a request to Jean Gee. Then the process goes before the ACT.”

The team is made up of Gee, who is UM’s senior associate athletic director; Haslam; and faculty representatives Jim Lopach and Dr. Greg Machek.

“The team will then convene with the student athlete and discuss, and then render a decision,” Haslam said. “And all of that would be private because of certain laws. But that’s the process.”

“A lot of people have asked me if he wants to come back to the team,” added Haslam, who was named to replace O’Day on Sept. 12 of last year. “I have not had any conversations with Jordan. That’s completely up to him, whether he wants to come back or not. But those decisions are up to him.”

From the dismissal of O’Day and Pflugrad, who is now Weber State’s offensive coordinator, to the acquittal of Johnson took just over 11 months.

Engstrom gave no sense of relief over the conclusion of an emotional trial.

“I’m not really going to comment on that,” he said. “It went through the court of law. It was a very rigorous trial that was very difficult for everyone involved.

“None of us are in any position to second-guess the decision. We’ll just go forth from here based on what the court decided.”

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. love2run
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    love2run - March 02, 2013 10:26 pm
    The real victim here is Johnson. The county attorneys forgot what their jobs were and lost their way, shame on them. Most everyone who can openly look at the case knew the county attorneys didn't have a case . Missoula county should be footing Paoli's bill not Jihnson nor his family!!!!!!!
  2. Dave Bovee
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    Dave Bovee - March 02, 2013 8:33 pm
    Jocks aren't really people, so what's your problem?
  3. CampBoatFish
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    CampBoatFish - March 02, 2013 6:11 pm
    True cons: Not exactly true. Most important, all citizens that end up in court are INNOCENT until they are PROVEN GUILTY. The prosecution (or anyone else for that matter) did not even come close to proving Johnson guilty. Therefore, as his record will show--today Johnson is as innocent as he was the day he was charged.. Johnson's name should not ever be associated with the word rape again! In a perfect world that would happen.
  4. Tinman7
    Report Abuse
    Tinman7 - March 02, 2013 5:00 pm
    Bovee, why are you always slandering people as jocks? Were you bullied by one as a kid or something?
  5. notfadeaway
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    notfadeaway - March 02, 2013 2:30 pm
    Trials as this remain the most popular but morbidly clumsy way to focus the body politik on the land mined frontier where politics and justice intersect. We sacrifice two youth for our righteous pleasure.
  6. right angle
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    right angle - March 02, 2013 1:47 pm
    This is what one sets oneself up for when having sex before marriage. Hopefully these two didnt catch any long lasting STDs.
  7. Wise5
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    Wise5 - March 02, 2013 12:37 pm
    Wow, what a life lesson for both of these young adults.
  8. MontanaDAD
    Report Abuse
    MontanaDAD - March 02, 2013 12:16 pm
    This is the problem with corporate run prisons, they profit off of putting people in jail. In turn, they use these profits to push legislators to pass more legislation to outlaw more things as well to push our judicial system to enforce them. It's a vicious system where everyone profits except the American populace.


    Even though the Prosecution stacked the deck in the recently concluded Johnson rape trial by appointing 5 prosecutors, including an assistant attorney general and an attorney in private practice, Johnson was able to maintain his innocence.

    While outraged that as citizens we are forced to support this racket, I do feel we should at least pick up Johnson's tab with his attorneys, or perhaps this bill should be forwarded to the "accuser"?
  9. Dave Bovee
    Report Abuse
    Dave Bovee - March 02, 2013 11:16 am
    Absolutely nothing in the verdict says that it was and illegitimate investigation or prosecution. Why did you nansie pervs stand on your own 2 feet in the light of day and make these charges? The victim has not identified herself and has not tried to make any money out of this. Back up your pulings like humans and put your names in the paper. Sign your names to a criminal or civil complaint, jock trash.
  10. Chuck Feney
    Report Abuse
    Chuck Feney - March 02, 2013 10:46 am
    Get Ready To Pay

    The U. of M. had better not gloat...
    "Not Guilty" said the Jury's note,
    Now they will pay
    And they'll rue the day
    They made Coach Pfluegard the scapegoat!
  11. Living Good
    Report Abuse
    Living Good - March 02, 2013 9:46 am
    Maybe he can play for the cats and take it out on the griz on the football field.
  12. true conservative
    Report Abuse
    true conservative - March 02, 2013 9:33 am
    Not guilty in a criminal case is not a finding that he didn't do it. O. J. Simpson?
  13. Riddler
    Report Abuse
    Riddler - March 02, 2013 9:11 am
    screw playing football. he needs to focus on his next trail. the defamation of character law suit against his accuser and the college. his life was destroyed by both. more money in that than football.
  14. 2012
    Report Abuse
    2012 - March 02, 2013 8:58 am
    What part of Not Guilty don't they understand?
  15. dv727
    Report Abuse
    dv727 - March 02, 2013 8:48 am
    Let's see....the guy is found NOT GUILTY by a jury. Earth to school president--that means he DIDN'T DO IT!!!! The Coach and AD who stuck by him (accurately, it turns out) are fired. The U president says Johnson, himself a victim as well, must "appeal" the school's decision. The new coach, perhaps under pressure, is ambivalent about a victimized player on his team returning. If I were Johnson, it would be Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen--this place doesn't deserve the talent he would bring to its field.
  16. notfadeaway
    Report Abuse
    notfadeaway - March 02, 2013 7:52 am
    He has already faced and stood up to the toughest challenge available outside of war itself. A blitzing linebacker is nothing now.

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