Amended UT sexual assault lawsuit alleges Jones called player ‘traitor’ after helping rape victim

Von Pearson, Alexis Johnson cases also added to UT sexual assault lawsuit

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Cases involving UT football players Von Pearson and Alexis Johnson have been added to a sweeping lawsuit alleging a culture of sexual violence among athletes at the University of Tennessee.

More than 20 new pages were added to the amended lawsuit, which also includes details of football player Drae Bowles who is said to have been assaulted twice by his teammates and called a “traitor” by Head Coach Butch Jones for assisting a rape victim.

Drae Bowles allegedly retaliated against for helping rape victim, called ‘traitor’ by Coach Jones

Drae Bowles (source: UT Sports)
Drae Bowles (source: UT Sports)

A new section added to the lawsuit goes into more detail about player Drae Bowles who allegedly helped a woman who said she had been raped by A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. The suit says Bowles saw the victim crying in a parking lot. She told him about the alleged rape in his car and called 911. Bowles than drove her from the Woodlands Apartment Complex to Volunteer Hall where she was taken to UT Medical Center.

Web Extra: Read the amended lawsuit [PDF]

Later, the suit claims Bowles was attacked by Johnson’s roommate Curt Maggitt after he heard about the alleged rape. When Bowles called Coach Jones to tell him what had happened, the suit says Jones told him he “betrayed the team,” causing Bowles to break down and cry. Jones later apologized.

Extended coverage: University of Tennessee sexual assault

The next day, Bowles ate at Smokey’s Sports Grill when he was approached by Geraldo Orta and Marlin Lane. A fight almost broke out, according to the suit, but was broken up by football strength coach Brandon Myles.

During an interview with police, Orta allegedly said he felt Bowles betrayed the team and that “where he (Orta) came from, people got shot for doing what Bowles did.” He also said Maggitt had confronted Bowles in the team locker room and that Jones had “instructed the team to stay away from Bowles and Bowles was given time away from the team.”

The suit claims Maggitt also admitted to police assaulting Bowles and that he had purchased alcohol for the party where the alleged rape happened. No action or discipline was taken against Orta, Lane or Maggitt, according to the suit, and Bowles transferred to UT Chattanooga due to being shunned by his teammates.

Coach Jones responded to the accusations by denying them and saying he did everything he could do to help Bowles.

The assertion that I ever attempted to belittle or demean a young man for taking action to help another person is absolutely false. To the contrary, I did all I could to assist the former student in question. During the course of the judicial process, campus officials, as well as the young man’s own words, will clearly establish that I have done nothing wrong. I will fight all of these false attacks on my character, and I know that once this process has been completed, my reputation will be affirmed.


Von Pearson case

Previous story: Von Pearson reinstated to Vols football team; rape charges dropped

Von Pearson (source: UT Sports)
Von Pearson (source: UT Sports)

The suit contains accounts of two new “Jane Does” added to the lawsuit. One says she was forcibly raped by Pearson on April 24, 2015, at University Walk, an off-campus apartment complex where Pearson lived with other UT football players. She said knew Pearson and Alton “Pig” Howard through a mutual acquaintance. She had a brief sexual encounter with another player when Pearson came into the room and tried to rape her.

Pearson received an interim suspension and was later reinstated. The suspension was later re-imposed. The alleged victim said she was never given notice about any of Pearson’s hearings or the change of status in his suspension.

Charges against Pearson were later dropped due to insufficient evidence. The alleged victim dropped her classes at UT. The suit claims her rape was a casual result of UT’s “deliberate indifference and policy decisions to create a hostile sexual involvement.”

Alexis Johnson case

Alexis Johnson (source: Knox County Detention Center)
Alexis Johnson (source: Knox County Detention Center)

Previous story: Vols football player arrested on aggravated assault, false imprisonment charges

A woman claimed Alexis Johnson tried to sexually assault her and forcibly held her in a bedroom on February 14, 2014. He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and false imprisonment.

“It’s unfortunate that Alexis Johnson has been included as a non party in this lawsuit wherein the accusers are seeking monetary damages. Alexis intends to enter a plea of not guilty at his upcoming court appearance because he is in fact not guilty of the allegations,” said his attorney Greg Isaacs.

Johnson has been suspended from all team activities while his case is under investigation.

Mention of another unnamed varsity football player has also been added to the case who allegedly sexually assaulted a female victim in September 2015. She is not one of the plaintiffs at this time.

Peyton Manning case

The amended suit also expands upon a paragraph devoted to an alleged assault from 1996 involving Peyton Manning following the university’s motion to strike the Manning allegations from the case. Attorneys said they had to “beef it up” because of the motion.

The expanded paragraph involves Jamie Whited, the university’s first female associate trainer. She alleged Manning “sat on her face” while she was assessing an injury. The incident was settled in 1997, provided she left her position with the university.

Previous story: UT files motion to strike Manning accusations from sexual assault lawsuit

Web Extra: Read Rollo’s 2002 deposition [PDF]

The suit alleges Whited reported the incident to head trainer Mike Rollo who “engaged in an effort to ‘cover up’ the incident by inventing a false narrative that the incident was merely a ‘mooning.'” The suit also alleges Rollo suggested blaming the incident on an African-American student instead of Manning.

WATE 6 On Your Side found that in a sworn deposition from 2002 related to the lawsuit against Manning, Rollo admitted in court he went to see Whited the night of the incident. He said she was distraught and had reported it to the Sexual Crisis Center, but he told her she should not report it to police.

More alleged cover-ups

The amended lawsuit alleges more cover-ups by the school’s administration and athletic department when Athletic Director Dave Hart was hired in 2011, pointing to a sexual assault allegation against UT player Da’rick Rogers that was never disclosed. It says the athletic department interfered by doing its own internal investigation before notifying the office of student conduct.

Allegations that sexual assaults by athletes were tolerated are further documented in the amended lawsuit with another sworn declaration by Tim Rogers, the school’s former vice chancellor of student life, who said he repeatedly warned Chancellor Jimmy Cheek of the “inordinate and alarming number of sexual assaults by football and basketball players,” urging him to take action.

Rogers later resigned due to the “intolerable situation.”

Bowles, Rogers and former Director of Student Judicial Affairs Jenny Wright have all signed paperwork that they are willing to testify in the case.

Attorney’s statement to media

Attorney David Randolph Smith issued this statement:

Today we have filed an amended complaint, supported by the declarations (under penalty of perjury) from two licensed Tennessee attorneys and former UT administration officials–Jenny Wright (former director of the Office of Student Judicial Conduct at UT) and W. Timothy Rogers (former Vice-Chancellor at UT) attesting that the allegations set forth in the amended complaint are true and correct with respect to the statements and descriptions of events set forth in the amended complaint pertaining to them. These declarations also support that the case was correctly filed in the Nashville Division of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

We have also today filed the declaration of a former University of Tennessee athlete, Drae Bowles, that attests to the truth of the statements made in amended complaint concerning him.

The amended complaint adds two additional “Jane Doe” plaintiffs (Jane Does VII and VIII) in connection with alleged sexual assaults by UT football players Lavon (“Von”) Pearson (on April 24, 2015) and Alexis Johnson (on February 14, 2016—five days after our Title IX complaint was filed) and cites another alleged rape of a female UT student on September 20, 2015 by a UT varsity football player that was reported to UT and to the Knoxville Police Department.

Plaintiffs will also oppose UT’s motion to strike references in the complaint to Peyton Manning. Evidence of prior incidents is relevant in a Title IX case. Simpson v. Univ.

University’s statement to media

University of Tennessee attorney Bill Ramsey issued a statement Wednesday night denying allegations in the lawsuit and saying the university acted properly. Ramsey also said the university hopes the statement will lessen “potential harmful effects”  the complaints in the lawsuit on the university’s efforts to encourage sexual assault victims to come forward and seek help.

The University has reviewed the amended complaint filed today by the plaintiffs and we continue to stand by our actions. The facts, as opposed to allegations in a complaint, will demonstrate that the University acted properly in the matters at issue. We have continuously worked hard to improve our processes and our procedures to ensure that we are doing all that we can to prevent incidents of assault, to support victims of assault and to pursue justice while ensuring due process for those accused. We will vigorously defend all claims in the amended complaint.

The University is issuing this statement to lessen the potential harmful effects narrative in the amended complaint has on the University’s continuing efforts to encourage survivors to come forward and report sexual assaults and its efforts to educate students about the issue of sexual assault. The University will not allow this lawsuit to detract from those efforts.

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