Two University of Texas football players charged with sexual assault
Two University of Texas Longhorn football players have been arrested and charged with sexual assault after a female student reported that she had been raped in a campus dorm in June.
Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander -- who were indefinitely suspended from the team -- were released on personal recognizance bonds Thursday afternoon following their arrest earlier in the day.
William C. Powers, the president of the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement that the “campus must be an environment free from all sexual assault and violence.... We educate all of our students about preventing sexual assault and vigorously investigate all allegations so we can take the appropriate action.”
The University of Texas Longhorns football team is a member of the Big 12 Conference and has the second-most wins all-time in NCAA Division I football standings, behind the University of Michigan.
Sanders, a junior from Athens, Texas, has played in 23 career games and started seven last year. He made 37 receptions for 361 yards and one touchdown. Meander is a redshirt freshman from Amarillo who did not play last season.
Meander’s attorney Rickey Jones said his client maintains he is “100% innocent” and has been punished before being found guilty of anything.
“He’s waiting for his day in court to prove his innocence,” Jones said. “His only regret is his reputation. He’s been kicked out of school, kicked off the football team, lost his scholarship – all because someone made an allegation against him.”
Brian Roark, an attorney who represents Sanders, told the Austin American-Statesman that Sanders “is innocent, though, and eventually that will be proven.”
University police at the Austin campus opened the assault investigation after receiving a 911 call from a student.
Police said they found the student crying under a desk, “barefoot and her hair disheveled,” at 3:43 a.m. June 21, according to an arrest affidavit.
The woman, who had known the men for a year, told officers she had gone out to Austin’s Sixth Street entertainment district with friends and returned to Meander’s dorm room, where they began to have consensual sex.
Sanders knocked on the door and Meander let him in, according to police. The woman said Meander went into the bathroom and Sanders forced her to have sex, according to the affidavit.
Meander returned from the bathroom and joined the assault, even though the woman told both of them to stop, according to the court document.
“The victim asked Meander why he was doing this and he did not reply, just stared at her,” the affidavit said. “The victim asked to leave and Sanders said, ‘you can leave after I am done.’ The victim closed her eyes and tried to mentally and emotionally remove herself from the situation. At that time she was not able to discern who was doing what to her.”
She told police that she noted a flash, and suspected that Sanders used his phone to take a picture or video of her.
The players were interviewed separately at the university police station, where police looked at pictures on their phones and found at least one photo of the woman, the affidavit said.
During the interviews, the two players “began texting each other, trying to get their stories straight,” the affidavit said.
Football coach Charlie Strong, who will begin a preseason training camp for the team in two weeks, said he was “extremely disappointed.”
“It’s been made clear to everyone on our team that treating women with respect is one of our core values, and I’m extremely disappointed that two young men in our program have been accused of not doing that,” Strong said in a statement Thursday.
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