Monday, March 4, 2013

District attorney should be made to answer why rape trial of college quarterback that shouldn't have been brought was brought

The sexual assault trial of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson ended with an acquittal on Friday. Applause and sobs rang through the Missoula County courtroom. Jordan Johnson faced up to 100 years in prison for one count of sexual intercourse without consent. After three weeks of testimony, it only took the 12 men and women a little over two hours to reach the not guilty verdict in the Jordan Johnson case. An alternate juror says he wasn't allowed in the room when the jury was deliberating over their verdict, but he wasn't surprised by the verdict. His chilling words support what this blog has been saying about this case:
"The lack of evidence was troubling. The alleged victim's mixed messages and comments to friends cast doubt on allegations. The alleged victim even questioned events of the evening and there was no evidence that Jordan Johnson knew that he had sex without consent."

One man who had been watching the trial in court for many days turned to one of the defense attorneys after the verdict to shake her hand and congratulate her: “Justice was served. Oh God, you did good.” Former UM athletic director Jim O’Day said: “The bottom line is that what happened is what I felt needed to happen all along. The judicial system needed to make the decision.”

Perhaps the most important question to ask is why the case got this far. According to the New York Times: the trial "was held against the backdrop of a federal investigation into how officials at the University of Montana, as well the city and county of Missoula, handled sexual assault allegations, several of which involved members of the football team."

Kirsten Pabst, who was the chief deputy county prosecutor before recently entering private practice  was one of Mr. Johnson's attorneys in the case. She said that the County Attorney’s Office charged Mr. Johnson with a sex crime just "to send a message." The County Attorney took a garden variety "he said/she said" rape accusation and improperly credited some, but not all, of the statements of the accuser while ignoring substantial evidence that showed that no sex crime was committed. Ms. Pabst says that the County Attorney's office "cherry-picked" facts because of the pressure to respond to sexual assault.

Mr. Johnson and his unnamed accuser had previously been flirtatious, and at a university Ball this past February 3, the woman told Mr. Johnson – according to Mr. Johnson and a friend who said he heard it – “Jordy, I would do you anytime.” They eventually went to the house where the accuser lived with male roommates (one of whom was right outside the room) and had sex.

The accuser told a close female friend the morning after the alleged assault that she "think[s]" she’d been raped “and that she didn’t want to report his name because" she, the accuser, "felt responsible." She said: "The reason I feel this whole situation is my fault is because I feel like I gave Jordan mixed signals which caused him to act the way he did."

In a later text message, she told someone, "I don't think he did anything wrong." But, in a most cruel and bitter text to a friend, she expressed happiness that he was going to be charged with rape -- according to the motion the text message said:

Stephen Green, the woman’s roommate and one of her best friends, testified Thursday that he was rattled when he got a text message from her that night that began, “omg … I think I might’ve just been raped.” At the trial, defense counsel asked him: “You did nothing to respond to her text. You were confused, the text was unclear to you, and you thought she was exaggerating.” The roommate answered: “Yes.”

Dr. David Lisak, one of the nation's most famous rape victim's advocates, testified that while trauma could explain the changing stories of an alleged rape victim, lying could explain the same behavior.

Other than a speeding ticket, Mr. Johnson had never been in trouble. At the trial, he was heard to say: "If she would have ever said stop or no. I would have stopped. It's not the kind of person that I am-not how I was raised to be."

But the prosecution rolled the dice with a young man's life, and the district attorney should be made to answer why. Our guess is that he's happy that he can now look the attorney general in the eye and shrug his shoulders and say, "At least I tried."

We haven't seen anything this heinous since Mike Nifong.