Rape trial begins for Univ of Mont quarterback
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - The rape trial of a former University of Montana quarterback is about a woman who was betrayed by someone she trusted and not about the school's football program, a prosecutor said Monday in his opening statement.
The case against Jordan Johnson has drawn attention to the school's handling of sex assault cases.
Johnson is accused of assaulting the woman as they watched a movie together at her home last year. Johnson has said the sex was consensual.
Prosecutor Adam Duerk told the jury the woman tried to stop Johnson after they began kissing in her bedroom, but he forced himself on her.
"This case is about a young woman who was horribly betrayed,'' Duerk said.
The woman's housemate will testify that the woman appeared distraught after she emerged from the room and then became hysterical after giving Johnson a ride home, the prosecutor said.
Johnson's attorney, Kirstin Pabst, made reference in her opening statement to comments by former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams on the eve of the trial that the university's recruiting system let "thugs'' into the program.
"Jordan is the opposite of the ignorantly generalized football thug,'' Pabst said.
Williams, a member of the Board of Regents that oversees the university system, has said he was not referring to Johnson.
Another Johnson attorney, David Paoli, noted while questioning potential jurors that three people had indicated on their questionnaires that they knew someone who was the subject of a false rape report.
"So we can agree that there are false reports?'' Paoli asked.
The trial began amid continuing NCAA and federal investigations into how the school and the city of Missoula respond to rape allegations on campus..
Paoli mentioned the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation in the town where Grizzly football is so popular.
Jury selection took a day and a half and involved screening more than 150 potential candidates. The final panel features seven women and five men. Five alternates joined the 12 jurors.
The prosecution made its opening statement after Judge Karen Townsend read the jury its instructions.
An outside investigator was hired by the university in December 2011 after two students reported being drugged and raped.
The investigator found nine alleged rapes or sexual assaults involving students had occurred between September 2010 and December 2011, including at least two that hadn't been reported.
Two more allegations were made after the investigator's report, including the claim against Johnson, which surfaced in March 2012 when the woman obtained a temporary restraining order against him.
Johnson led Montana to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals as the 2011 starting quarterback.
In a separate case, former Montana football player Beau Donaldson pleaded guilty to rape and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The university received a grant from the DOJ Office of Violence Against Women that provides it with training in mandatory education for students and for disciplinary boards, community response teams and campus law enforcement, spokeswoman Peggy Kuhr has said.
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