Two standout University of Montana football players who were tased by Missoula police trying to break up a weekend party pleaded not guilty Monday to misdemeanor charges.
Quarterback Gerald Kemp and cornerback Trumaine Johnson, both 21, are charged with obstructing a peace officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The two, who spent about an hour in jail early Sunday after the incident, remain free on bond.
The charges stem from a late-night party at Johnson's North Russell Street apartment hours after the Grizzlies' 28-24 come-from-behind victory over Northern Arizona University. The Grizzlies flew back to Missoula Saturday night. At about 2:40 a.m. Sunday, someone called 9-1-1 and complained about a loud party.
The first two officers on the scene estimated there were about 30 people in the apartment, said Detective Lt. Scott Brodie. They included "several persons who appeared to be under the age of 21 ... and several containers of alcohol throughout the apartment," according to the affidavit filed in the case.
Kemp allegedly rebuffed Officer Mitchell Lang's attempts to speak with him, putting his hands on Lang's shirt and yelling at him, according to the affidavit. Lang called for backup "as it appeared people were becoming angry," he said in the affidavit.
"Nobody was really wanting to cooperate in shutting the party down," Brodie said.
When backup officers arrived, Kemp hit one of them, Pat Erbacher, in the chest, it said.
"I reached out and grabbed Gerald and then Officer Erbacher then brought up his Taser and deployed it at Gerald," Lang wrote for the affidavit.
Johnson, who tried to intervene, was tased moments later when he resisted police attempts to get him on the ground, Brodie said.
"Alcohol was definitely a factor" in both cases, Brodie said. A "use of force" report will be filed, standard when police use their Tasers or other weapons.
While assault on an officer is generally a felony, the police involved in the case felt it should be filed as a misdemeanor, Brodie said.
"To us, it was just a regular citizen who got out of control at a party," he said. "It doesn't matter if it was Trumaine Johnson or Gerald Kemp."
Johnson, a fourth-year senior who is considered to have an NFL future, was all-American at corner in 2010 and a 2011 preseason all-American.
Kemp, a fourth-year junior, is a quarterback and receiver this year. He had eight catches for 82 yards in the Oct. 8 game against Idaho State University.
Darla Keck of Datsopoulos, MacDonald and Lind, who represented Kemp and Johnson at their initial appearance Monday morning in Missoula Municipal Court, said "a lot of witnesses" will be able to testify about the incident.
"No comment," said Keck when asked if any of their teammates were among those witnesses.
As to the fact that both were tased, that's "not good," she said.
Both men requested jury trials, which Acting Municipal Judge Doug Harkin set for Feb. 7. A separate speeding ticket for Johnson also will be handled at that time, she said.
UM athletic director Jim O'Day said any discipline will be handled internally. "We are continuing our investigation into the allegations, and will let the judicial system run its course," he said Sunday. Johnson and Kemp pay their own legal fees, O'Day's office said Monday.