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Thursday September 21st, 2017 7:05PM

DA declines to file charges in UT rape case

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE - A University of Tennessee football player won't be charged with raping a 16-year-old girl in a dormitory this spring, Knox County prosecutors said Wednesday.

The girl accused Antwan Stewart, a redshirt freshman from Triangle, Va., projected to start at cornerback this fall, of sexually assaulting her May 17. She and a 17-year-old friend were visiting Gibbs Hall, a dormitory primarily occupied by athletes.

``Considering all the evidence, it is clear there is not sufficient evidence to prove the allegations in the case beyond a reasonable doubt, as is required by law. Therefore, we will not bring charges in the matter,'' District Attorney General Randy Nichols said.

His office was providing reporters with copies of the 100-page case file.

Stewart and his attorney could not be reached immediately for comment.

Nichols said he told the girl, her attorney and her mother on Tuesday. They could not be reached immediately.

The alleged victim's attorney, Larry Leibowitz, says his client is a ``special needs'' student but has not commented on specifics of her disability.

The case took an odd twist when Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer and his attorney Jeff Hagood met with the 17-year-old friend, her mother and other adult relatives hours after the alleged attack. The girl provided Fulmer a written statement about what occurred in the dorm, which authorities made part of their investigative file.

The 17-year-old girl suspected the younger girl was going to accuse Stewart of misconduct, and she alerted other players, Fulmer has said. Some players told Fulmer about the situation, and the coach arranged the meeting.

Fulmer said he was trying to uncover the truth about the incident, not influence a possible witness or impede the investigation. Nichols has said the meeting was not improper but that it cast ``an odd light on the case.''

On Wednesday, Nichols said ``there is absolutely no indication that contact made with any witness by persons other than the police or our office had any effect on their statements.''

Stewart, 19, has remained on the team but was disciplined for showing bad judgment by allowing the girl in his room. He has attended voluntary workouts this summer.

The girl told police she went to the second floor of Gibbs Hall with her friend, whom she said ``had previously been to the Gibbs Hall to visit residents there.''

She said she went to (UT football player) Marvin Lee Mitchell's room, then ``a black male she knows only as Antwan took her to another room and sexually assaulted her,'' according to the University of Tennessee Police Department report.

Stewart redshirted last season, but was impressive in spring practice as he was named one of the most improved defensive players on the team. Mitchell was not accused of any wrongdoing.
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