Ex-Vol Johnson Wants Separate Trial from Williams in Rape Case
By David in TN
KNOXVILLE — Former University of Tennessee football linebacker A.J. Johnson has filed a motion seeking a separate trial from a former teammate on charges the pair raped a UT student.
Meanwhile, back in Knoxville. A suspect asks for his case to be severed. [To N.S.:] Doesn't this sound like another criminal case you and I have some familiarity with?
Ex-Vol Johnson wants separate trial from Williams in rape case
By Jamie Satterfield
12:28 P.M., May 1, 2015
9:37 P.M., May 1, 2015
Knoxville News Sentinel
Former University of Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson wants to sit alone at the defense table when facing trial on rape charges, and the lead prosecutor is fine with that.
Defense attorney Stephen Ross Johnson on Friday filed a motion in Knox County Criminal Court seeking separate trials for A.J. Johnson and his co-defendant, UT cornerback Michael Williams.
Document: Defense motion seeking separate trials
"Alexander Johnson has pleaded not guilty because he is not guilty, and the motion to sever was filed in order to help ensure a fair jury trial," Stephen Ross Johnson said in a statement to the News Sentinel.
"It is not out of the ordinary in criminal cases to seek separate trials when multiple persons are charged given the rules of evidence and constitutional issues involved. A jury must make an individual decision about innocence or guilt of each person accused, and often separate trials aid the integrity of that process."
The motion states Assistant District Attorney General Leslie Nassios does not oppose the move for separate trials, so Judge Bob McGee is likely to approve it.
Johnson, 23, and Williams, 21, are accused of raping a 19-year-old female UT student in November. The woman said it happened during a large party at Johnson’s residence at the Woodlands apartment complex in South Knoxville in the hours after Tennessee’s win over Kentucky.
The pair face trial in August on four counts of aggravated rape, although that date likely will now change. In the indictment, each former player is accused of two distinct acts of rape and two additional counts of aiding and abetting each other.
The motion offers a few new clues in a case in which police and prosecutors have kept details close to the vest. Attorney Johnson reveals, for instance, Williams gave a statement to police about the incident in which he invokes A.J. Johnson’s name so much a copy of it cannot "effectively" be redacted.
The attorney also indicates Williams specifically talked about Johnson’s actions on the night of the party.
Nassios’ consent to separate trials shows she intends to use Williams’ statement against Williams, a signal that whatever Williams said, the veteran prosecutor wants a jury to hear it.
As attorney Johnson notes, U.S. Supreme Court rulings largely bar Nassios from using Williams’ statement in a joint trial.
Williams has denied, via defense attorney David Eldridge, the rape allegations.
Attorney Johnson ended his motion with a cryptic statement that suggests the two former teammates may no longer be on the same defense page.
"There are potential issues of prejudice for a joint trial in this case apart from issues (involving Williams’ statement)," he wrote.
UT coach Butch Jones suspended both players from the team after learning of the allegations. Johnson graduated in December from UT and completed his eligibility. Williams has played two seasons.