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Ex-Vols linebacker, Gainesville grad A.J. Johnson surrenders to police
Football star out on $40K bond in aggravated rape case
Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson gestures during a Nov. 15 game against Kentucky in Knoxville, Tenn. - photo by Wade Payne

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Former Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson, a Gainesville High graduate, has turned himself in on a charge of aggravated rape.

The Knox County Sheriff's Office issued a release saying Johnson had turned himself in Tuesday and was released on $40,000 bond. Suspended Tennessee defensive back Michael Williams also is charged with aggravated rape.

Knoxville police had named both Johnson and Williams in November as subjects of a rape investigation. A grand jury heard the case last week. David Eldridge, the lawyer representing Williams, said Thursday his client was indicted and also had been released on $40,000 bond.

"Mr. Johnson has fully cooperated throughout this investigation, has maintained his innocence from the beginning, and looks forward to being cleared of these accusations so that he can begin to put his life back together," said Tom Dillard, the lawyer representing Johnson.

Eldridge had issued a statement Thursday saying Williams was "innocent of these charges" and "is confident that when all the evidence is presented there, he will be exonerated."

Johnson had been on the list of players invited to this week's NFL Scouting Combine. The NFL announced it had withdrawn that invitation Friday, one day after the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that Johnson was being indicted.

The police report released in November said that Knoxville police investigator Tim Riddle spoke to two 19-year-old women on Nov. 16 at the University of Tennessee Medical Center at about 4:30 a.m. One woman said Johnson and Williams raped her at the apartment complex. A second woman said she was sexually assaulted by Williams at the same location.

The Associated Press does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse.

Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said in November that the woman who said she was sexually assaulted had "decided not to prosecute at this time," but that the woman who said she was raped wanted to press charges.

Both players were suspended from Tennessee's football team the day before police identified them as subjects of the investigation. Johnson has since graduated and completed his eligibility.

Court records released last week included former Tennessee wide receiver Drae Bowles and defensive back D'Andre Payne among the witnesses in the grand jury hearing. Bowles and Payne have both since transferred. Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Friday that the case "had absolutely nothing to do" with their departures.

Johnson, 23, a 2011 Gainesville graduate, was a four-year starter for Tennessee's football team. His 425 career tackles represent Tennessee's second-highest total since the school started keeping track of that statistic in 1970.

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