Suspended University of Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson pleaded not guilty to rape Tuesday in Missoula County District Court.
Late Tuesday afternoon, defense attorney Kirsten Pabst filed a motion seeking to dismiss the charge against him of sexual intercourse without consent.
Pabst, who until starting a private practice this spring served as the chief deputy county attorney, said in court earlier Tuesday that the motion would cite lack of probable cause.
It also would contend that material facts were omitted from the complaint filed July 31 against Johnson by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, she said.
Johnson was suspended from the team after the filing of the felony charge, which carries a potential sentence of two years to life in prison. He’s accused of raping a fellow UM student on Feb. 4 as the two watched a movie at her home.
After the alleged assault, the woman texted her roommate, writing, “Omg … I think I might have just gotten raped ... he kept pushing and pushing and I said no but he wouldn’t listen,” according to charging documents in the case.
The woman drove Johnson home that night, and the next morning went to UM’s Student Assault Resource Center, and then to the First Step crisis center for a medical examination, the documents said. She filed a restraining order against Johnson on March 9, which later was converted to a civil no-contact agreement, and on March 21 filed a police report. Johnson was not charged until July 31.
David Paoli, another of Johnson’s defense attorneys, has maintained his client’s innocence throughout.
At Tuesday’s arraignment, Assistant Chief Deputy Missoula County Attorney Suzy Boylan said she’s working her way through 1,000 pages of text messages, many of which will need to be redacted. Boylan said she was concerned about her ability to finish that task before the next court hearing in the case, scheduled for Aug. 21.
Paoli said he anticipated that once he reviews those messages he may request still more text messages from witnesses in the case.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Johnson went to the Missoula County jail to be photographed and fingerprinted before being released on his own recognizance.
Missoula County District Judge Karen Townsend granted a request for Johnson to travel home to the Eugene, Ore., area before he begins the fall semester at UM.
The civil no-contact order signed earlier this year remains in effect for Johnson and his alleged victim. Paoli said UM has made arrangements to reduce the possibility that the two might encounter each other on campus.
Paoli said he’d been in touch with the university “and there are no problems.” Both students attended UM during the spring semester without incident, he said.
The case against Johnson comes amid months of controversy surrounding the issue of sexual assault at UM and in Missoula. Late last December, UM commissioned an outside investigation into allegations of rape and sexual assault involving students.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the way UM campus police, the Missoula Police Department and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office handle reports of rape and sexual assault. The U.S. Department of Education is investigating how UM dealt with allegations of harassment by the football team.
Johnson and former UM Grizzlies running back Beau Donaldson are the only two students to face criminal charges in sexual assault cases. Donaldson is to go on trial in September on a charge of sexual intercourse without consent.
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, email@example.com or @CopsAndCourts.