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Ex-Montana quarterback acquitted of rape

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 1, 2013 at 7:38 pm •  Published: March 1, 2013

Johnson's trial began with jury selection Feb. 8. District Judge Karen Townsend initially called 400 potential jurors for the high-profile case and eventually seated 12 with five alternates.

Concerns about the handling of sexual assault cases peaked in December 2011, when UM President Royce Engstrom ordered an outside investigation after two students reported being drugged and raped.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz later said her investigation found nine alleged rapes or sexual assaults involving students had occurred between September 2010 and December 2011, including at least two that hadn't been reported. One led to former Montana football player Beau Donaldson pleading guilty to rape and being sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Engstrom said in January the investigation "indicated an association with patterns of behavior from a small number of student-athletes."

"We will not tolerate the tarnishing of the proud tradition of Grizzly athletics," he said at the time.

Barz suggested training faculty and staff on how to handle and report sexual assault allegations and rewriting student and student-athlete conduct codes.

Weeks later, the university came under more criticism after the dean of students notified a Saudi national about sexual assault and rape allegations made against him. The student fled the country before the alleged victims could file a police report.

Johnson's case surfaced March 9, when the female student obtained a temporary restraining order against him. He was briefly suspended from the football team, then reinstated when a civil no-contact order replaced the restraining order.

Three days after coach Robin Pflugrad welcomed Johnson back, and touted the "character and tremendous moral fiber" of the player he had known since Johnson was a boy, Engstrom announced he was not renewing the contracts of the coach or O'Day. Both were immediately relieved of their duties, with no explanation from Engstrom.

The move came after a season when Montana advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinal game. The Grizzlies have advanced to the national title game seven times since 1995, winning twice

Last April, the federal Department of Education announced it was investigating a complaint alleging the university discriminated against female students, faculty and staff by failing to address a sexually hostile environmental caused by its failure to appropriately respond to reports of sexual assault.

Soon after, the U.S. Justice Department announced its investigation into the handling of rape investigations and prosecutions, and the school announced in May the NCAA had been investigating its athletic programs since January 2012 for undisclosed reasons. Those investigations continue.