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Published August 07, 2012, 02:31 PM

Suspended Montana quarterback denies rape charge

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Suspended University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to raping a woman earlier this year after she invited him to her room to watch a movie.

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Suspended University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to raping a woman earlier this year after she invited him to her room to watch a movie.

The clerk's office for the Missoula District Court said Johnson entered his plea during an appearance before Judge Karen Townsend.

Johnson was formally charged with sexual intercourse without consent on July 31, prompting his suspension from the team. He is the second Montana player to be suspended in a sexual assault scandal at the university that has led to three investigations by federal agencies and the NCAA.

Attorney Dave Paoli has said Johnson "strongly maintains his innocence." Another attorney, Kirsten Pabst, said the defense team is preparing to formally ask Townsend to dismiss the charge against Johnson for lack of probable cause and based on their contention that material facts were omitted from the complaint.

Johnson declined to comment as he left to be fingerprinted and booked into jail. The Missoulian reports that Townsend granted a request for Johnson to travel home to the Eugene, Ore., area before he begins the fall semester at the University of Montana.

A civil no-contact order between Johnson and the alleged victim is still in place, and Paoli said the university has made arrangements to reduce the possibility of an encounter between the two on campus.

KECI-TV reports (http://bit.ly/MKXbLb) that Johnson's attorney is asking that prosecutors turn over text messages between students and university administrators involved in the investigation.

Assistant Chief Deputy Missoula County Prosecutor Suzy Boylan said she is working her way through 1,000 pages of text messages and is concerned about her ability to finish before the next court hearing on Aug. 21, according to the Missoulian.

Neither Boylan nor Paoli immediately returned calls seeking comment Tuesday.

The alleged rape happened on Feb. 4 in the female student's room, with two of her roommates in other rooms in the home. Boylan wrote in her charging affidavit that the female student resisted Johnson's advances while they were watching the movie, but he became aggressive and raped her.

Afterward, the woman sent a text to her roommate in the next room that said, "Omg ... I think I might have just gotten raped."

Johnson has maintained through his attorneys that the sex was consensual.

In January, running back Beau Donaldson was suspended after he was charged with raping an acquaintance in September 2010. He has pleaded not guilty.

A university investigation earlier this year found nine allegations of sexual assault that had gone unreported over 18 months, and two others have been surfaced since then. It is unclear how many of them involve football players or other student athletes.

The Justice Department and Education Department are investigating the university and the city's response to reports of sexual assault on campus and in Missoula. It is unclear what the NCAA investigation is targeting.

Johnson passed for 2,400 yards and 21 touchdowns last season as he led the Grizzlies to an 11-3 record in 2011 and a share of the Big Sky Conference Title. Montana lost in the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Without Johnson, Coach Mick Delaney said Trent McKinney, Shay Smithwick-Hann, incoming freshman Brady Gustafson and former Stanford walk-on Adam Brzeczek will be considered for the quarterback spot.

Gerald Kemp, a former quarterback who had been suspended over the summer, has returned to the team as a wide receiver.

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