General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck on Wednesday night threw out rape charges against six former UTC football players.
Judge Shattuck said there was not enough evidence that the sex at Boling Apartments on Oct. 21, 2005, was not consensual as the players contended.
The state could still take the case to the Hamilton County Grand Jury if it chooses.
The ruling came after a day-long hearing in which the 18-year-old former student testified for several hours.
The players had been thrown off the football team and dismissed from school after the charges were brought.
The defense focused on the background of the alleged rape victim. Defense attorneys tried to present evidence about Internet postings on a Facebook website, saying it had numerous references about sexual activity and sex groups.
However, the state objected strenuously, saying such background about an alleged rape victim was protected by the state Shield Law.
Judge Shattuck declined to allow questioning of the woman about the Facebook site.
The judge heard widely varying stories of the incident. The woman said she was raped by six different UTC football players without giving consent.
It was testified that the players said the woman never protested any of the sexual activity and that she came on to several of them.
Terrence Thomas, Lironnie Davis, DeJuan Payne, Cori Stukes, Larry White and Muhammad Abdus Salaam had faced one count of rape each.
They appealed their dismissal from UTC at a two-day hearing last week.
Several of the players said the woman at one point that night pointed to three of them and said, "I want your (private part). I want your (private part). I want your (private part)."
A picture was shown to Judge Shattuck that Thomas said he took that night of the woman naked in his bed and smiling.
Ardyce Ridolfo of the Rape Crisis Center said she examined the young woman and found she had a half-inch tear in her vaginal wall. She said that is an indication of the use of force during sex.
She said the alleged victim also had swelling and bruising on the side of her face.
Ms. Ridolfo said the woman told her she had been sexually assaulted by six different men after she had consumed a lot of alcohol and was intoxicated.
She said when she was interviewing the woman she appeared to be in a state of shock.
She said the woman told her she "knew a lot of football players and went to the games."
She said the woman told her the last time she had sex prior to the early morning incident Oct. 21 was two days earlier. She said she did not mention having sex two nights earlier.
Ms. Ridolfo said the woman told her that she went to a Lambda Chi party and a number of football players came in. She said Thomas offered to take her home, and another person gave them a ride to Boling Apartments. She said Thomas carried her up to his apartment and took off his clothes and hers.
She said the woman said she blanked in and out and when she woke up there were seven men in the bedroom.
UTC Det. Bob Ratchford said he interviewed the woman, and he also talked with the defendants with attorney Jerry Summers present. He said all of them told him the sex was consensual.
He said the players told him the woman did not appear to be that intoxicated.
The detective said Thomas stated that the woman "never said 'No, don't do this.'"
He said Thomas stated that his roommate, Salaam, came in while he was having sex with the woman. He said he later saw Salaam having sex with her, then other of the football players stopped by the apartment.
It was testified that another football player, Anthony Broadnax, asked for oral sex with the woman, but she declined, saying she did not know him.
Thomas told the detective that after the woman had sex with several players in the bedroom that she went into the living room, and they "started playing with her." He said she had a cover around her.
He said afterwards, she went to the bedroom and put her clothes back on. Then he and Payne gave her a ride to another apartment.
Salaam told the attorney that the woman consented to have sex, including oral sex, with him in both the bedroom and the living room. He said he asked her, and she agreed to the sex acts.
He said he saw her perform oral sex on four different football players.
The detective said Stukes told him that White came out of the bedroom, then he went into the room and she consented to sex with him.
White said he was in a courtyard with another player prior to the woman going up to the Thomas apartment. He said she hugged them and asked if they were coming up.
Davis told the detective that he saw the woman performing oral sex on another player. He said he was sitting in a chair in the living room when the woman came over, pulled down his sweat pants, grabbed his private area and began to force herself on him. Davis said he got a call on his cellphone while she was in his lap, and he told her to "Chill it."
Payne told the detective that the woman came over to the couch and began to kiss his stomach, then performed a sex act.
One player said he asked the woman, "Can we do this next week?" and she said, "We can do this every week."
Det. Ratchford said, after conducting the interviews and consulting with the district attorney and city police, it was decided to file rape charges.
On cross-examination, he said the woman wanted to be taken to the apartment of another football player after the incident.
He said she wound up in the apartment of a male student, Derrick Brucker.
The girl testified that she went to the Lambda Chi party with her friends April and Duncan. She said they stopped on the way at Kanku's on Central Avenue and got some Smirnoff Ice and beer. She said that night she drank some Smirnoff, two or three beers, some Coke and rum and an unidentified drink "in a big bottle."
She said she was at the party from around 11:30 p.m. to about 2:30 a.m.
She acknowledged wearing a very short skirt and said she was humping up close to Thomas during a dance.
She said she got separated from her friends and accepted the ride from Thomas. She said he carried her up the stairs because she was "stumbling around."
The woman, who said she was raised by strict parents and did not drink before going off to college, said Thomas took off his clothes and her clothes after getting to his bedroom. She said she did not ask him to stop.
The witness said she blacked out and woke back up to find there were several more men in the room.
She said Thomas "walked out of the room. That's when they all took turns."
She said, "At times, I told them No or stop."
The woman denied she had previously had sex with Thomas, though he said they had.
She said she did not immediately go to police "because I thought it was pointless. They were football players, and I thought they would believe their stories and not mine."
She said, "It was like the wrestler last year. He got off and nothing happened to him." Attorney Jerry Summers said the girl in that case admitted she had lied.
The woman said she went to Derrick Brucker's apartment, and she said another football player, Sam Bentley, came over. She said she told them about the incident.
She said, "Sam got upset and he called the defensive coach, who called Coach Allison."
The woman admitted having sex with Bentley one night prior to going to police, and she admitted going to the UTC football game that weekend. She said she was painted up and cheering for the team.
UTC football player Adam Daigler said he saw the woman at the party carrying a beer in each hand. He said she came over to him, hugged him and spilled some of the beer on him.
He said he later saw her dancing with Thomas. He said it "looked like they were having sex on the dance floor."
He said afterwards he agreed to give them a ride. He said the woman said she "did not want to spend the night alone." He said she wanted to come to his apartment, but he told her No.
The witness said when she got out of the car, she crawled on all fours "sticking her butt up in the air."
He said, "The way she was acting - flaunting herself - nothing good was going to come of it."
He said at the football game that Saturday "we looked up and saw her in the stands. I was shocked. Five of our starters were off the team and the rest of us had our minds on it. If I was raped, I don't think I'd go to the game and cheer on the guys who did it."
On cross-examination, he agreed he first told detectives that the woman that night "was drunker than drunk."
Prosecutor Mary Sullivan Moore said the evidence supported binding the cases over on rape, saying the woman had contended she had told the players No and had hit some of them. She also cited the vaginal tear and the bruising.
Attorney Summers said the woman came from a strict religious background and had gone off to college and "obviously became a young lady out of control."
He said, "This case is not going to get better for the state. It's going to get worse" if it had continued to the higher courts.
Attorney Summers said the woman later that night did not report being raped, but told another man "the football players stole my underwear." He said the state would have had a better case by charging the football players with theft.
He said the witness from the Rape Crisis Center was "slanted and prejudiced and made no attempt to find out the truth."
Attorney Hank Hill called her "probably the least professional and least expert witness I have ever heard in a courtroom."
Attorney Mike Little said the woman "was in control that night. She was in control at the fraternity party and she was in control at Boling Apartments." He said Payne had not been identified at first, but had come forward. He said his account matched that of all the other football players.
Judge Shattuck called it "a very, very unfortunate situation."
He said the woman had sex on a number of occasions and he was not convinced the tear cited by the Rape Crisis Center happened on Oct. 21.
He said he also was not convinced that she was "physically helpless" at the time of the incident. He said she was dancing provocatively a short time before and was walking around the campus on ledges and going through windows a short time later.
Attorney Hill said a short time after the incident the woman went to the apartment of a man "who sleeps buck naked."
The woman has since withdrawn from UTC.
Attorney David Barrow makes a point
- Photo2 by John Wilson