An attorney for a suspended University of Montana quarterback accused of rape says that if the state doesn’t immediately produce voluminous records – including the alleged victim’s medical and school records dating to when she was 5 years old – the case against Jordan Johnson should be dismissed.
On Tuesday, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg filed a response to an earlier defense motion to dismiss the case, calling it a “thinly veiled press release under the guise of a legal pleading.”
Johnson is charged with sexual intercourse without consent in connection with an alleged Feb. 4 assault on a fellow UM student as the two watched a movie at her home. He pleaded not guilty to that charge Aug. 7.
One of his attorneys, David Paoli, filed the most recent defense motion in the case Monday in Missoula County District Court. The motion asks the court to compel the state to provide discovery – evidence – in the case, or to dismiss the charge altogether.
The day Johnson was arraigned, defense attorney Kirsten Pabst sought to dismiss the case against him, contending that the state “cherry-picked” facts in charging him. Motions to dismiss are routine in high-stakes cases.
Pabst’s motion noted the “unfortunate context” of the current U.S. Justice Department investigation into how the county attorney’s office, the Missoula Police Department and UM police handled sexual assault cases over the last three years.
Until she left to start a private legal practice this spring, Pabst was chief deputy Missoula County attorney.
The state’s response to Pabst’s motion was due Tuesday, and it was filed on the dot of 5 p.m. “Rife with irrelevant, unnecessary, prejudicial and objectively inadmissible evidence,” Van Valkenburg termed Pabst’s motion, calling it an attempt to set up “a trial before a trial and ... potentially contaminating the jury pool in the process.”
Any notion that the Justice Department investigation influenced the decision to charge Johnson “could not be further from the truth,” he wrote, calling it “speculation at best” and “a desperate accusation.”
But to respond in detail would violate ethical rules on public statements about a case, he wrote.
Paoli’s motion contended that neither Assistant Chief Deputy County Attorney Suzy Boylan nor her discovery assistant returned calls he left them on Friday about discovery in the case that he requested on Aug. 9.
“Not only is the state jeopardizing Johnson’s defense by failing to produce discovery, but the state is jeopardizing this court’s deadlines,” Paoli wrote. “Further, if the state does not immediately produce all discovery materials, Johnson requests that the charges against him be dismissed based on the disadvantage that has been created by the state’s failure to produce the requested discovery.”
That information includes transcripts and videos of police interviews with several people, the medical and school records, contact information for every person who was with the alleged victim before, during and after the UM Foresters Ball on Feb. 3, and all text messages between the alleged victim and witnesses.
At Johnson’s arraignment earlier this month, Boylan expressed concern about her ability to sift through 1,000 pages of text messages in the case, many of which will need to be redacted, in time for court deadlines.
Paoli specifically seeks any counseling records from UM, and the school’s Sexual Assault Resource Center, as well as videos from her visit to the First Step sexual assault medical testing center. He and Pabst also seek to interview the alleged victim as soon as possible.
The counseling records are necessary because of the state’s contention that the woman suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome after the alleged assault, and because the woman also said she’d had panic attacks and PTSD years before the incident, Paoli wrote.
But Van Valkenburg responded that a pretrial motion is not “an appropriate way to make a claim that a rape victim did not act like a rape victim should. Trauma responses are complex, often counterintuitive to lay persons and require expert testimony.”
Neither Boylan nor Paoli returned calls for comment Tuesday. Johnson’s attorneys have until Aug. 31 to reply to Van Valkenburg’s response.
Johnson was the starting quarterback for the Grizzlies until the charge was filed, at which point he was suspended from the team.
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, email@example.com or @CopsAndCourts.