The jury of seven women and five men took just a few hours to decide that Jordan Johnson was not guilty of sexually assaulting a fellow University of Montana student on the night of Feb. 4, 2012 as the two watched a movie at her house.

Johnson broke into tears and a sense of relief washed over him as the verdict was read. His lawyers hugged him as tears rolled down his face. After the judge read a few instructions the jury was released and Johnson went to his family, who was showing similar signs of relief.

Jordan Johnson trial Verdict
Photo by Jenna Martin/KGVO News

"This whole thing is finally over," said one person sitting near Johnson's parents.

Johnson made his way to his parents, who have been sitting in the front row of the audience every day of the trial. Hugs and tears were shared by everyone.

Jordan Johnson Trial Verdict with Paoli
Photo by Jenna Martin/KGVO News

Then another hug from Johnson's lawyer David Paoli.

"You are so strong," said Paoli to Johnson, both of whom had tears running down their face.


David Paoli and Kirsten Pabst with KGVO's Peter Christian

Former University of Montana Athletic Director Jim O'Day was emotional after the verdict, saying despite the joy and relief felt by Johnson and his parents, the tragic situation left nothing to celebrate. He expressed his sorrow for the young woman and all she and her family endured as well. O'Day responded to a question about the loss of his position as athletic director by saying, "I lost my job for all the right reasons, because I believed in the kids." Meaning the fact that because he stood behind the student athletes at UM, he was fired.

Jim O'Day with Peter Christian

Photo by Peter Christian

Following the verdict,  Mike McGowan, unofficial chaplain of the Grizzly Football team, who appeared as a character witness for Johnson also expressed sorrow for the young woman and her family, but was overjoyed for Johnson. McGowan said the not guilty verdict was a healing step for the football program, the University of Montana and Missoula itself.

Mike McGowan after the verdict

Jordan Johnson Trial Verdict
Photo by Jenna Martin/KGVO News



Earlier today...

After three weeks of trial, today, March 1, both sides gave their closing statements in the sexual assault trial of suspended University of Montana quarterback Johnson, an exchange that was littered with not just the review of the facts of the case, but also with accusations about the conduct of the counsel representing each side. The case was given to the jury to deliberate on at about 1:15 p.m.

The prosecution focused their closing statement on asking the jury to consider the process that the alleged victim has endured to bring this incident to trial. Prosecutor Susie Boylen led the jury through a list of what the woman has gone through including; telling the dean of the pharmacy school, having her parents deal with the situation, getting the exam done on her body, having 29,000 of her text messages gone through and having people make derogatory comments about her.

"This is not a 'he said, she said case," Boylen continued. "The defense has used that phrase multiple times. If it were that kind of case we would have been done weeks ago because we would have had just two witnesses."

Boylen then dove into the evidence of the case, bringing up the text message that the woman sent her roommate stating that she thought she'd been raped, which she recounted Johnson said would be weird if she hadn't been raped.

Boylen also discussed the emotional state of the woman prior to the incident and after it, saying that multiple witnesses confirmed changes in her.

In her closing statement, Boylen said that Johnson left two types of marks on the woman -- marks on her body and marks on her emotionally. The women's emotional state was widely disputed yesterday in court.

"The defense can dispute the diagnosis, but they can't deny the symptoms," Boylen said.

Boylen told the jury that the defense was using snap shots, rather than looking at the big picture. She also went on to say that the defense used text messages and other written evidence out of context.

She finished her closing statement by returning to the alleged victim and whether or not she consented.

"Kissing is not consent to sex," she said. "Fooling around is not consent to sex."

Boylen then made the comparison that society doesn't blame victims of burglaries or muggings, but they do blame victims of rape.

David Paoli gave the closing statement for the defense, in which he hammered at his disappointment in the investigators in the case who he said did not collect all of the evidence that they should. This was in reference to an earlier statement made by Detective Connie Breuckner made on the stand regarding not collecting evidence because she knew the defense would. He went on to say that they didn't collect evidence to prove Johnson's innocence, just that which was inline with him being guilty.

Paoli brought back up testimony from both the accuser and the defendant. He first talked about Johnson having the opportunity to have the woman over to his house where no one was home. Paoli then brought up the woman's testimony that, "She planned to have sex with him before this happened." Paoli went on to say that in the woman's testimony she stated "not once, but twice" that she assisted Johnson in the sexual act, and was "an active participant."

Paoli also spent time focusing on the people in the woman's life who have said at various points that they doubted her story or thought her to be at fault, including her roommate, her friends and her mother.

After a short recess, Paoli continued his statement, now using a set of large posters with enlarged quotes from testimony and text messages.  At one point he also got down on the ground with one of the posters to demonstrate what the woman alleged happened.

Paoli said that in the end jurors have to decide who is most creditable. He said Johnson was waiting to tell his story, and that he was honest and direct with them. He said that the woman was not.

In response to the prosecution's point that the woman had no good reason to fabricate this story, Paoli said neither does his client.

"Why would he even come close to this when everything in his life is contrary to everdoing anything like this?" said Paoli toward the end of his closing statement. "It doesn't add up. I think the why question gets turned on its head when you say to yourself 'why would Jordan put himself in this position?'"

Peter Christian was a co-author of this article.


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