Teammate Testifies in Tennessee Players' Rape Trial has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)


A former University of Tennessee football teammate of A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams testified Tuesday he was twice attacked by other players after the pair were accused of rape, but admitted he lied to a News Sentinel reporter about that and also denied any attacks when interviewed by police.

Former UT Vol Drae Bowles took the witness stand Tuesday in Knox County Criminal Court, where Johnson and Williams are standing trial on aggravated rape charges for allegedly raping a female UT athlete at a party at Johnson's South Knoxville apartment in November 2014.

Bowles testified that he encountered the pair's accuser outside Johnson's apartment that night as he was leaving.

'Would you please help me?'

"She was hyperventilating," he said. "She said, 'Would you please help me?' She said, 'Please take me home.'"

Bowles said the accuser was surrounded by other female athletes and her best friend, Anna Lawn, at the time. He said the accuser, Lawn and her friends got into his truck, and he agreed to take them to Volunteer Hall, a student-athlete dormitory where some of those female athletes lived. Bowles said it was during that drive he learned the accuser said she had been raped.

"(The accuser) told me who she had been raped by," Bowles testified. "She asked me what she should do."

Bowles called his dad, who is a police officer in West Tennessee. Later, when the accuser phoned 911 from outside Volunteer Hall, Bowles could be heard on the recording of the call, saying, "Say you got raped."

'He hit me in the face'

The next day, Bowles said, then-player Curt Maggitt, a linebacker who was close friends with Johnson, confronted him during a team "check-in" the following day.

"He was very upset with me, said I was hurting A.J.'s career," Bowles said. "He hit me in the face."

Bowles said he called then-Coach Butch Jones and told him about the rape allegations and the encounter with Maggitt. He indicated Jones was already aware of the rape allegations, but he was blocked - after a private conference at the bench of Judge Bob McGee - from disclosing the details of his conversation with Jones.

Testimony has shown Jones twice talked to former Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch in the hours after that 911 call from the accuser.

Prosecutors have alleged in opening statements UT athletics officials insisted on coordinating police interviews with players, though the defense said Johnson and Williams went to KPD headquarters voluntarily and accompanied only by their attorneys for an official interrogation.

Bowles testified that on the following day - two days after the alleged rape - he was "pushed" in a UT cafeteria by then-players Marlin Lane and Geraldo Orta - who themselves had been accused in 2013 in connection with a rape that did not net any charges. Orta was later hired by KPD as a police officer in 2017.

"I thought they were going to fight me," he said. "They were dissing me."

Bowles said Vols assistant strength coach Brandon Myles stepped in, and Bowles left.

"I took a week off ... just because of the tension that was going on," he said. "Some people on the team weren't even speaking to me."

Bowles described the accuser as "an acquaintance of mine."

'I was doing what I was told'

But under cross-examination by Johnson's attorney, Stephen Ross Johnson, Bowles admitted he lied to a News Sentinel reporter who sought to interview him about the attacks, telling the reporter he didn't even know the accuser was claiming rape when he dropped her off at Volunteer Hall.

"I was doing what I was told at that time because police had told me not to discuss anything," Bowles said of the lie.

Attorney Johnson responded that a KPD investigator with whom Bowles spoke "never told you to lie, did he?"

Bowles answered, "No, sir, he told me not to discuss it."

When later asked by police if "everybody's treating you OK," Bowles told investigators, "Everything's fine. There have been no problems or complaints." Under additional questioning by prosecutor Kyle Hixson, Bowles said at the time of the interview there had been no other attacks, so that's why he denied any problems.

Bowles finished the 2014 football season and later transferred to the University of Tennessee's Chattanooga campus. He said he already had decided to transfer months before the alleged rape.

Prosecutor Hixson in opening statements told jurors the allegations against Johnson - coupled with his suspension at a crucial time when the Vols needed a victory to score a bowl game - caused an outrage among players and fans that led to attacks on Bowles and threats toward the accuser.

Best friend denies phone ditching

Also on Tuesday, the accuser's best friend, Anna Lawn, denied that she and the accuser intentionally ditched their cellphones - without backing up the devices to save photos, texts, messages and social media history - within a day of each other as has been alleged in court records.

She said her mother handled the phone contract and upgraded to a new phone for her daughter because she was having technical difficulties with it. Pressed on what she did with her old phone, Lawn said she couldn't recall but thinks she "threw it away" without saving anything from it.

The defense alleges the accuser is lying about the alleged rape and Lawn ditched their phones and scrubbed their messaging to keep that lie under wraps. The attorneys won the right after a lengthy court battle to try to retrieve the information, but statements in court this week indicate they were unable to recover the contents of that messaging.

The trial continues Wednesday.

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July 25, 2018


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