Lawsuit: UT football players assaulted Drae Bowles for helping rape victim – Knoxville News Sentinel

A federal lawsuit alleges that Tennessee football players twice assaulted wide receiver Drae Bowles for assisting the woman who accused linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive back Michael Williams of rape in November 2014.

The lawsuit, filed in Nashville on Tuesday by six unnamed UT female students including five alleged rape victims, charges that the University of Tennessee violated Title IX and other federal laws by “deliberately indifferent” actions before and after the alleged rapes. Four of the rapes in question, including the case involving Johnson and Williams, were allegedly committed by Tennessee athletes.

The lawsuit also charges that UT created a “hostile sexual environment” through deliberate indifference, and that UT officials, including chancellor Jimmy Cheek, athletic director Dave Hart and UT football coach Butch Jones, failed to address that environment.

Williams and Johnson, who were immediately suspended when they were accused, were both eventually charged with rape and are facing separate trials in June and July, respectively. Bowles, who transferred to Chattanooga after the 2014 season, has received a subpoena to testify.

The lawsuit cites police interviews and a Knoxville Police Department incident report as evidence of the assaults. However, no incident report involving Bowles nor any of the police interviews in question could be obtained by the News Sentinel on Tuesday night.

When asked for specific comment on the alleged assaults of Bowles, UT spokeswoman Margie Nichols and athletic department spokesman Ryan Robinson referred to the statement released Tuesday by legal counsel Bill Ramsey. That statement said, in part, “any assertion that we do not take sexual assault seriously enough is simply not true. To claim that we have allowed a culture to exist contrary to our institutional commitment to providing a safe environment for our students or that we do not support those who report sexual assault is just false.”

Attempts to reach Bowles through a Chattanooga athletic department spokesperson on Tuesday night were unsuccessful.

The “factual allegations” section of the lawsuit claims that Bowles had taken the alleged victim, a plaintiff in the lawsuit referred to as Jane Doe IV, to the hospital the night of her assault and supported her decision to report the incident to the authorities. It claims that the fifth plaintiff in the case, who is referred to as Jane Doe V and the only plaintiff who was not an alleged rape victim, witnessed several football players “jumping” Bowles on Nov. 17, 2014, the day after the alleged rape occurred.

The lawsuit says that Jane Doe IV later understood that “athletic coaches were present” during that altercation. It also says Jane Doe IV learned that Bowles was assaulted a second time by the same players in a team facility.

The lawsuit claims that former linebacker Curt Maggitt “admitted” the second assault in interviews with police, but doesn’t specify whether or not Maggitt was part of the assault. It says that Williams said in an interview with police on Nov. 26 that former defensive back Geraldo Orta “had told Williams that the football team had ‘a hit’ out on Drae Bowles.”

The lawsuit claims that Orta told police that he felt “Bowles had betrayed the team and that where he (Orta) came from, people got shot for doing what Bowles did.” It also said Orta told police that he had gotten “in Bowles’ face” and said “some threatening things” at Smokey’s Cafe, the athletic dining facility. It also said that Orta told police Maggitt confronted Bowles in the team locker room in an incident separate from the assault.

Jane Doe IV, also a Tennessee student athlete, learned of the first assault on Bowles while she was in a meeting with Tennessee executive senior associate athletics director Jon Gilbert, senior associate athletics director Mike Ward and her varsity team’s head coach, the lawsuit said. She informed them of the assault and was told they would look into it. The lawsuit said Jane Doe IV was never told of any action taken against the players involved.

Bowles testified before the grand jury that led to the indictments of Johnson and Williams. He told the News Sentinel in an interview on Feb. 13, 2015, that he had given the alleged victim a ride home from the party at which the rape allegedly occurred, but that she did not mention that she had been raped. He also denied rumors that he had been assaulted.

Bowles missed several practices the week of the alleged rape. Then-Tennessee spokesman Jimmy Stanton said at the time that Bowles missed practices for academic reasons, and Bowles said the same in the February interview. Bowles said he had decided to transfer early in the season.

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