Michael Wil liams

UT, Vols the subject of federal sexual violence investigation

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You can add Tennessee to the growing number of universities who are the focus of a federal investigation connected to allegations of improper responses to reports of on- and off-campus sexual assaults.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), The Tennessean is reporting, has launched an investigation into sexual violence at UT. The investigation, the paper stated, commenced on June 29.

In an email sent to faculty, staff and students, chancellor Jimmy Cheek vowed that the university “will cooperate fully with [the] OCR as it investigates the complaint.”

Over the past several months, it’s been reported across multiple media platforms that three Vols football players have been connected to sexual assault allegations while they were still members of the football team.

Following an investigation by local law enforcement that began in November of last year, then-current UT cornerback Michael Wil liams and former UT linebacker A.J. Johnson were indicted in mid-February by a Knox County grand jury on two counts each of aggravated rape.  Both pleaded not guilty a month later, although Johnson had already seen his invitation to the NFL combine rescinded while it was reported in June that the Vols had “moved on” from Williams.

According to reports that surfaced in mid-November, a 19-year-old UT student claimed that Johnson and Williams raped her at the former’s residence in a Knoxville apartment complex. The unnamed woman claimed that the assault lasted 45 minutes, and occurred during the course of a party being held following UT’s win over Kentucky.

Another 19-year-old woman claimed she was sexually assaulted at the same location around the same time by Williams.

The first woman was treated at the UT Medical Center. The second alleged victim declined treatment and headed back to her home in Florida. She also initially declined to pursue charges despite claims of being sexually assaulted, but did cooperate with the grand jury.

Then, in late April of this year, reports surfaced that wide receiver Von Pearson was a suspect in the investigation of an alleged rape.  Pearson has been indefinitely suspended by head coach Butch Jones, although no charges have been filed and no arrests made in connection to the alleged sexual assault.

Those are the three that have been well-publicized and chronicled; according to The Tennessean, however, there are three other Vols football players who were on the roster in 2014 who have been accused of sexual assault.

In April of 2013, running back Marlin Lane, whose eligibility expired after the 2014 season, was on the receiving end of what turned out to be a two-month suspension that was attributed to “disciplinary reasons.” The paper writes that “Lane… was named as a suspect in the rape of an 18-year-old high school student in Lane’s dorm room on April 9, 2013,” four days before his suspension. No charges were filed after the alleged victim declined to pursue the case.

In February of this year, Riyahd Jones, who was on the team in 2014 but is no longer a part of the team, was named as a suspect in a sexual assault that was reported to the Knoxville police. The Tennessean writes that “[n]o charges have been filed, and police have declined to provide a copy of the full police report, saying that the district attorney’s office could still decide to pursue charges.”

The last of the sixth is explained by the paper thusly:

In September a football player was named in a sexual assault complaint made to university officials by a freshman woman, according to an internal university investigation and emails from university officials obtained by The Tennessean. University officials investigated the case and issued a finding that no assault occurred and the incident was instead consensual sex. The player remains in good standing on the team. The Tennessean is not naming the football player because he has not been publicly accused and no police report was filed.

In addition to UT, Florida State and Vanderbilt are the subject of federal investigations into how they handled reports of sexual assault. Both of those probes are in part connected to the football programs at the respective universities.

Vols have ‘moved on’ from CB indicted on rape charge

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Not so surprisingly, the Tennessee football program is putting about as much distance as it can between itself and Michael Williams.

Back in February, the cornerback, along with former UT linebacker A.J. Johnson, were indicted by a Knox County (Tenn.) grand jury on an aggravated rape charge.  Williams and Johnson were each suspended in November after the sexual assault allegations involving two female UT students surfaced.

Monday, the Associated Press wrote, “Tennessee officials didn’t say whether Williams had been permanently kicked off the team, but when athletic department spokesman Jason Yellin was asked if there were any circumstances under which Williams could return, Yellin reiterated that, ‘We’ve moved on.'”

According to reports that surfaced in mid-November, a 19-year-old UT student claimed that Johnson and Williams raped her at the former’s residence at a Knoxville apartment complex. The unnamed woman claimed that the assault lasted 45 minutes, and occurred during the course of a party being held following UT’s win over Kentucky.

Another 19-year-old woman claimed she was sexually assaulted at the same location around the same time by Williams.

The first woman was treated at the UT Medical Center. The second alleged woman declined treatment and headed back to her home in Florida. She had declined to pursue charges despite her initial claims of being sexually assaulted; whether she cooperated with the grand jury is unknown.

Shortly after the reports surfaced, both players were indefinitely suspended by the football program. Johnson’ eligibility has expired, while Williams’ has not.

Williams started five of the 10 games he played in 2015.

In addition to Williams, current UT wide receiver Von Pearson was indefinitely suspended in late April after he was named as a suspect in a separate rape investigation.  According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Pearson is not enrolled in school for the summer; is not listed in the student directory; is still listed on the Vols’ football roster; and his status has not changed since the initial suspension, a team spokesperson confirmed.

Grand jury indicts current, former Vols in rape case

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Two Tennessee Volunteers, one current and one former, are facing very serious charges following a legal development late Thursday afternoon.

Following a rape investigation that began in November of last year, the Knoxville News Sentinel is reporting, current UT cornerback Michael Williams (pictured) and former UT linebacker A.J. Johnson have been indicted by a Knox County grand jury. Williams’ attorney, David Eldridge, told the News Sentinel that his client “turned himself in to the Knox County jail and was released on a $40,000 bond.”

The specific charge or charges the two will be facing have not been detailed.

According to reports that surfaced in mid-November, a 19-year-old UT student claimed that Johnson and Williams raped her at the former’s residence at a Knoxville apartment complex. The unnamed woman claimed that the assault lasted 45 minutes, and occurred during the course of a party being held following UT’s win over Kentucky.

Another 19-year-old woman claimed she was sexually assaulted at the same location around the same time by Williams.

The first woman was treated at the UT Medical Center. Contrary to initial reports, the second alleged woman declined treatment and headed back to her home in Florida. She has thus far declined to pursue charges despite her initial claims of being sexually assaulted.  Whether she cooperated with the grand jury is unknown.

Shortly after the reports surfaced, both players were indefinitely suspended by the football program. Johnson’ eligibility has expired, while Williams’ has not. Williams is currently enrolled in school, and, suffice to say, his future as both a student and an athlete is very much in jeopardy.

This development comes shortly after a grand jury declined to indict Kentucky defensive lineman Lloyd Tubman on a rape charge.

Police report: UT student alleged two Vols players raped her

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Monday, Tennessee confirmed that two players, linebacker A.J. Johnson (pictured) and defensive back Michael Williams, have been indefinitely suspended from all team-related activities for violating unspecified team rules, although multiple media outlets reported that the suspensions were connecting to an investigation into alleged sexual assaults.

Tuesday afternoon, the Knoxville Police Department issued a two-page report that shed additional light on the situation.

According to the report, a 19-year-old UT student claimed that Johnson and Williams raped her early Sunday morning at a Knoxville apartment complex.  The unnamed woman claimed that the assault lasted 45 minutes.

Another 19-year-old woman claimed she was sexually assaulted at the same location by Williams.

The first woman was treated at the UT Medical Center.  Contrary to initial reports, the second alleged woman declined treatment and headed back to her home in Florida.  She has thus far declined to pursue charges despite her initial claims of being sexually assaulted.

Detectives have yet to interview either Johnson or Williams, although that’s expected to change in the near future.  No charges have been filed as the allegations remain under investigation.

Once the investigation is completed — there’s no timeline for completion — the case will be turned over to the Knox County prosecutors, who will determine if charges are warranted.  Both players are expected to remain suspended until the situation is resolved.

Johnson, who has started 44 games for the Vols the past three-plus seasons, is currently UT’s leading tackler after leading the team in that category the past two seasons.  Williams has started five of the 10 games in which he’s played this season.

Two Vols suspended amidst sexual assault allegations

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Tennessee’s push to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010 has taken a backseat to a rather significant off-field development coming out of Knoxville.

Monday afternoon, UT announced via Twitter that linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive back Michael Williams have been indefinitely suspended from all team-related activities. While the school assigned no reason for the suspensions, multiple media outlets are reporting that both Johnson and Williams are the subjects of a police investigation into allegations of sexual assaults that occurred over the weekend.

The details involving the alleged incident/incidents are very much unclear, up to and including whether the alleged incidents are related to or independent from one another. From The Tennessean:

The incidents allegedly involving Johnson and Williams occurred shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday. One 19-year-old woman — a current University of Tennessee student — told police she had been raped by two male students.

A second 19-year-old woman — a student visiting a friend from an out-of-state college — told police she was a victim of sexual assault.

It’s unknown if the incidents are related.

A Knoxville Police Department spokesperson said in a statement distributed to the media that officers responded to a call from an off-campus apartment complex; when officers arrived, one woman claimed she had been sexually assaulted by two males. Another woman claimed she had been sexually assaulted as well.

Both alleged victims were taken to and treated at the UT Medical Center. The second 19-year-old woman declined to press charges and returned home to Florida.

A search warrant for the apartment complex was issued and executed Sunday night. No charges have been filed.

During his Monday press conference, and prior to the announcement of suspensions via social media, Butch Jones acknowledged some type of situation involving UT players.

“We’ll continue to gather information, and based on what we have at that particular time, we’ll determine whether or not they will practice. But if there is anything of it, then they won’t practice,” he said. “I think we’ve proven since we’ve been here that we’re always going to act accordingly and we’re going to act swiftly.”

This situation comes nearly three weeks after a report surfaced questioning UT’s handling of two sexual assault allegations, one of which involved a football player in April of 2013.

Football-wise, and mindful that it pales in comparison to the off-field allegations, the loss of Johnson will be significant.

Widely considered to be the emotional leader on the defensive side of the ball, Johnson has started 44 games the past three-plus seasons for the Vols. He currently leads the Vols in tackles; he led the team in tackles the previous two seasons as well.

In February of this year, Johnson was arrested and charged with purchasing alcohol for a person underage and resisting arrest. Those charges were ultimately dismissed after he completed court-ordered sanctions.

A redshirt sophomore, Williams has started five of the 10 games in which he’s played this season.