Missoula County assigns 5 prosecutors to Jordan Johnson rape case

2012-10-02T07:15:00Z 2014-10-03T14:28:05Z Missoula County assigns 5 prosecutors to Jordan Johnson rape case missoulian.com

Five prosecutors, including an assistant attorney general and an attorney in private practice, are pursuing the rape case against former University of Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson.

Adam Duerk, an attorney with Milodragovich, Dale and Steinbrenner, is assisting the Missoula County Attorney’s Office in prosecuting the case, as is Assistant Attorney General Joel Thompson, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg said Monday.

“Suzy indicated she wanted some help,” Van Valkenburg said of Assistant Chief Deputy County Attorney Suzy Boylan who, with Van Valkenburg, has filed much of the paperwork in the case. Assistant Chief Deputy County Attorney Jennifer Clark also is assisting, Van Valkenburg said.

Johnson is charged with a single count of sexual intercourse without consent in connection with a Feb. 4 incident at a fellow student’s home, where the two were watching a movie.

The incident was reported to the Missoula Police Department in March and the County Attorney’s Office filed the charge July 31. Van Valkenburg said Monday that Duerk joined the case in late August or early September.

Johnson’s defense team of David Paoli and Kirsten Pabst, who until this spring was chief deputy county attorney, have sought voluminous amounts of information in the case, including thousands of text messages sent to and from the woman’s telephone. Missoula County District Court Judge Karen Townsend will review those messages first.

On Monday, Duerk referred questions about his involvement back to the County Attorney’s Office.

“It’s ridiculous to think that this is newsworthy,” Paoli said. Pabst declined to comment.

As for Thompson, Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Judi Beck said that “the Prosecution Services Bureau is assisting the Missoula County Attorney’s Office at their request.”

The County Attorney’s Office, along with the Missoula Police Department and UM’s Office of Public Safety, are under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for how they handle sexual assault cases.

Duerk’s involvement in Johnson’s case comes with no cost for taxpayers, Van Valkenburg said. Just as he did last year when he helped prosecute a high-profile homicide case, Duerk is doing the work pro bono.

That case involved two transients accused of beating to death a third in downtown Missoula in 2010. One man was convicted in August 2011 of misdemeanor assault, which carries a maximum six-month sentence. He was released immediately because he’d already spent 16 months in the Missoula County jail. The other was acquitted outright in a separate trial in December.

Each of those trials lasted about a week. At a hearing in Johnson’s case last week, the state requested a pool of 500 jurors and estimated that a trial, tentatively set for February, would last about three weeks.

Johnson’s defense attorneys said a 100-person jury pool and a seven-day trial was a more likely scenario.

Johnson was suspended from the UM football team after being charged. He and the woman continue to take classes, but remain under a civil no-contact order.

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

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

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