Former Vols A.J. Johnson, Michael Williams plead not guilty to aggravated rape

AJ Johnson and Michael Williams
AJ Johnson (right) and Michael Williams (left)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Former Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson and suspended Tennessee defensive back Michael Williams have pleaded not guilty to aggravated rape charges.

Johnson and Williams were arraigned Monday after being indicted last month by a grand jury. Trial was set for Aug. 24.

Johnson and Williams were suspended from Tennessee’s football team in November, one day before Knoxville police named both as subjects of a rape investigation. Johnson has since graduated and completed his eligibility.

Lawyers for both players have said their clients are innocent of the charges.

Michael Williams, A.J. Johnson
Michael Williams (L) and A.J. Johnson (R)

“What I’ve said before, I’ll say again,” said David Eldridge, the lawyer representing Williams. “He’s innocent of the charges and we will defend them in court.”

Tom Dillard, the lawyer representing Johnson, declined comment Monday aside from pointing out that his client had pleaded not guilty. When Johnson turned himself in last month, Dillard issued a statement saying 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.”

Johnson and Williams are charged with raping a woman at a Knoxville apartment in November. The Associated Press does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse.

Johnson and Williams turned themselves in after getting indicted last month and were released on $40,000 bond.

Johnson, a 23-year-old from Gainesville, Georgia, 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.

Williams, a 22-year-old from Laurel, Maryland, started five games and made 23 tackles for Tennessee last season.

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