NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2016, 10:04 AM
Michael Williams and A.J. Johnson, former University of Tennessee football players who will stand trial for rape this summer.
Football players at the University of Tennessee allegedly beat one of their teammates in 2014 for helping a woman who accused the players of rape, according to a bombshell lawsuit claiming that the school showed “deliberate indifference” to sexual assault reports.
The federal suit, filed Tuesday, comes from six unnamed women and says the school violated Title IX through a system biased against alleged victims.
It accuses four former student-athletes — football players A.J. Johnson, Riyahd Jones and Michael Williams, and baseball player Yemi Makanjuola — of sexual assault, as well as two unnamed current students, one of whom is a football player. The suit does not specify if any of the six allegedly beat up football player Drae Bowles.
The suit says the university’s administration was well aware of several sexual assault claims against players, but held them up in a hearing process that gave undue advantage to the athletes.
The Knoxville school “delayed the investigation process until the athlete perpetrators transferred to another school or graduated without sanction or discipline,” court papers say.
The sexual assault victims included a freshman who was at the school for just three weeks before her alleged assault, and at least three students who dropped out soon after reporting attacks.
Meanwhile, the Volunteers football players exacted vengeance on one of their own for aiding an accuser, the suit says.
Bowles, a wide receiver, drove one alleged victim to the hospital the night she said she was assaulted, according to the suit. He supported her decision to tell police about the attack.
Volunteers wide receiver Drae Bowles (center) was allegedly beaten by teammates, with coaches present, for helping a sexual assault victim.
After that, the football team “had a ‘hit’ out on Drae Bowles,” the suit says.
Some time later, the woman Bowles helped received a message from another sexual assault accuser, who said she witnessed several players “jumping” Bowles, apparently with coaches watching the whole thing, the suit says.
The first woman told the team’s head coach about the beatdown, and was told he would “look into it” — only to never hear about it again.
Bowles was allegedly beaten again by the same players days later. Around the same time, the woman Bowles helped reported a second sexual assault to the school, according to the suit.
Bowles transferred to University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after the 2014 season, and has previously denied to the News Sentinel that he was beaten by teammates. His testimony to a grand jury led to the indictments of Johnson and Williams, and he has been subpoenaed to testify in in their separate trials, which are set for this summer.
Jones was named a suspect in a sexual assault case last year, but the accuser chose not to press charges and police closed the case. Makanjuola transferred to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and has not been charged. The status of the unnamed alleged assailants is unclear.