Former University of Montana star quarterback Jordan Johnson hopes to return to the sport he loves after being acquitted of sexual assault charges, the football player's family said today.
"I think he plans on staying here and playing football. That's why he came. You know, so I'm hoping things get back to normal real quick," Johnson's uncle, Lane Johnson, told ABC's "Good Morning America."
Johnson was suspended and eventually kicked off the team as the case progressed, but school officials said he can now appeal to be reinstated.
After the verdict was read on Friday, Johnson hugged his attorneys before turning to embrace his supporters in the courtroom, which included fellow Montana football players, coach Mick Delaney, and former athletic director Jim O'Day, The Associated Press reported.
Despite the prosecutions' attempts to prove Johnson, 20, of Eugue, Ore., had raped a classmate and former acquaintance last February after she invited him over to watch a movie, evidence showed Johnson had consensual sex with the 21-year-old alleged victim.
Prosecutors said a medical exam revealed bruises on the accuser's body, and even played a recording of Johnson's unnamed victim alleging she was a victim of sexual assault after her night with Johnson.
"He just started pulling my body into his just again and again and again," she is heard saying. "It hurt so bad."
But the defense countered her claim with text messages the alleged victim sent to a friend, writing "I don't think he did anything wrong."
"We had consensual sex and I would never do that to anyone," Johnson testified on Thursday.
Johnson, who led the Grizzlies to an 11-3 record in 2011, was initially suspended from the football team when the accusations were made against him. But when he was charged with sexual intercourse without consent in July -- a felony with a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison -- he was kicked off the team under the school's student athlete conduct code, the AP reported.
If Jordan wants to retturn to the Grizzlies, he would have to appeal, and school officials said the athletic conduct team would make the final ruling.
"Jordan will need to indicate that that's his desire, to return to the team," Montana presidend Royce Engstrom told the Billings Gazette. "Then the athletic conduct team will listen to that and make a decision. And we'll attend to that as quickly as we can, if that's what Jordan wishes."
The case unfolded amid broad federal scrutiny of the Missoula Police Department, Missoula County District Attorney's Office and University of Montana's handling of sexual assault cases.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced in May a probe into the number of reports of sexual assaults in Missoula. During a three-year period, there were 80 reports of sexual assaults, of which 11 were at the university.
According to the DOJ, the purpose of its investigation was to determine whether the university and law enforcement agencies acted properly, adequately and fairly to protect the safety of women.
The school announced in May the NCAA had been investigating its athletic programs for undisclosed reasons.
The U.S. Department of Education, which also was looking into reports of harassment and assault allegations on campus, said last month that it had closed its discrimination complaint because the allegations were being addressed by the Department of Justice investigation.
Police and university officials have been eager to cooperate with the investigations, but Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg opposed the investigations when they were launched last year when he denied any mishandling of sexual assault reports.
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- sexual assault