Former Kentucky university athlete pleads not guilty to rape

Thu Feb 26, 2015 1:37pm EST
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By Steve Bittenbender

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - A former basketball player for the University of Louisville in Kentucky pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he had raped and sodomized two women.

Chris Jones, 23, is one of three men charged in the alleged incident early Sunday in an apartment complex near campus, police said. The other two defendants are not students.

Police said Jones forced the women to engage in intercourse and other sexual acts. A judge placed Jones under home arrest in lieu of a $25,000 bond, said Jefferson County Attorney spokeswoman Jessie Halladay.

The allegations come at a time of heightened national scrutiny of criminal sexual conduct by student athletes, and the response by their schools. A Tennessee jury late last month convicted two former Vanderbilt University football players of the campus rape of an unconscious female student.

Jones was suspended from the team just days earlier on Feb. 17 and missed a game the following night at Syracuse University after it was discovered he had sent a threatening text to another female, said Kenny Klein, the university’s sports information director.

He was reinstated Feb. 19 after surrendering his phone and agreeing to strict conditions, including a curfew. He then played in the Saturday, Feb. 21 win over the University of Miami.

Klein said officials dismissed Jones from the team Sunday afternoon, immediately after learning he had broken curfew and on hearing preliminary information about the accusations.

“While we cannot comment on this ongoing investigation, we certainly expect our student-athletes to uphold certain standards, including their treatment of others,” Klein said in a statement. “We have great respect for the legal process and our university procedures and we will cooperate as requested with this matter.”

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Bernadette Baum)