University of Montana student gets $245K settlement over false rape allegation

Those with long memories who have been following the “campus rape epidemic” story arc may remember the unusual case of Jordan Johnson. The University of Montana quarterback had one of the more promising collegiate football careers of the past few years. In the 2012 season he passed for 3,387 yards and 32 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 154.7, placing him in the top five all time players at that position in the school’s history. The NFL had already come knocking and he was expected to have a good shot at a spot in the draft.

Then a female student filed a restraining order against him and accused him of rape. The school preemptively expelled him and he faced trial on the charges, but was cleared in court. Now, long after his shot at the big time evaporated, he’s gotten something of a consolation prize. (Washington Post)

Johnson was acquitted in March of 2013. He promptly sued the university.

And on Tuesday, four years after the alleged rape took place, it was announced that the ex-quarterback would receive $245,000 over the expulsion.

“Any student accused of wrongdoing deserves a fair and impartial hearing of the facts of his or her case,” Johnson said in the statement, according to the Associated Press. “Officials at the University of Montana — people who were in positions of great power — were unfair and biased. Their misconduct made my family and me suffer unnecessarily, both emotionally and financially.”

The dramatic reversal is just one of a slew of lawsuits nationwide in which young men have accused universities of erroneously and over-zealously clamping down on sexual assault.

Johnson had one huge advantage which so many students in his position lacked. He was actually turned over to the law enforcement system and given a trial before a jury of his peers and adequate legal representation. And in due course, he was found to be innocent of the charges. Far too many students are hauled before campus run kangaroo courts and railroaded without ever having an actual criminal investigation conducted or constitutionally required representation for the accused. Those students rarely see a moment of redemption such as Johnson’s gotten.

But is this really justice? Having the college held to account for giving him the boot before any of the facts were in likely provides some sense of satisfaction and vindication, but that doesn’t put dinner on the table. I’m not so wealthy that I could turn my nose up at a check for $245K, but Johnson was on track to potentially land a position as a quarterback in the NFL. We can’t accurately state anything that might have been in an alternate universe, nor do we know how well he’d have fared in the combine, but from the looks of things the guy’s chances were pretty good. Even landing a spot riding the bench with any NFL team brings a minimum salary of $435k per year. (Heck, even a shot at the practice squad earns you $6,600 a week for as long as they keep you.) If Johnson had fought his way to a starting QB position the payday would have been in the millions per year. And none of that touches on the fame, the sense of achievement nor the various endorsement deals and other opportunities which can follow that level of gridiron success.

A single check for $245K, when compared to what might have been, is paltry indeed. But I suppose .001% of a loaf is better than none.