University of Montana Grizzly running back Beau Donaldson, charged in a rape case, pleaded not guilty in Missoula County District Court Tuesday morning.

Donaldson faces a single charge of sexual intercourse without consent. He admitted in a monitored telephone conversation in December that he assaulted a woman sleeping at his house in September 2010, according to charging documents filed by Deputy Missoula County Attorney Shaun Donovan.

District Judge Karen Townsend informed Donaldson he faces a maximum sentence of 100 years or life in prison, and/or a $50,000 fine, if convicted of the crime. She set his next court hearing for Feb. 28. And she asked his attorney, Peter Lacny, if a trial scheduling conference for March 20 made sense.

"At this point, it certainly does, but that may change," said Lacny, of Datsopoulos, MacDonald and Lind, which has represented other University of Montana athletes in court.

The charge against Donaldson comes in the midst of an investigation into allegations of sexual assault by UM students, including athletes, against other students. The university hired former Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz to look into those complaints, which include allegations of gang rape involving drugged victims.

Barz released her report Tuesday to UM president Royce Engstrom. (See related story.)

The woman who accused Donaldson went to police in mid-December, after the university's investigation was announced. She told police the two had been friends for years, but never romantically involved.

Police monitored a call between the woman and Donaldson on Dec. 23, in which "Donaldson admitted that he took sexual advantage of (the woman) and had sexual intercourse with her while she was sleeping," according to Donovan's affidavit.

"He apologized repeatedly and attributed the act to a ‘drinking problem,' as well as pain medication," the affidavit said.

The day after the alleged incident, Donaldson went to the woman's house, it said. "After initially denying the act, he became emotional, admitted the accusation and apologized," it said.

Donaldson, a 2008 Big Sky High School graduate, remains free on bond posted on $50,000 bail. He has been suspended indefinitely from UM's football team.

Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com, or CopsAndCourts.com.

Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com, or @CopsAndCourts.

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