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2 Georgia Players Cleared in Rape

September 3, 2002

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ATHENS, Ga. (AP) _ Two Georgia basketball players charged in a rape were cleared a week after a football player at the school was acquitted in the case.

Charges against Steve Thomas and Tony Cole were dropped Friday by Superior Court Judge Steve Jones after a request by District Attorney Ken Mauldin.

The inability to convict football player Brandon Williams led to the decision to dismiss the charges against Thomas and Cole.

Thomas was charged with the rape of a female student in a Georgia dormitory in January. Cole faced a felony charge of aggravated assault with intent to commit rape. Both men are 21.

Williams, also 21, was acquitted on Aug. 23.

``It is highly unlikely that any other jury would reach a different result,″ Mauldin said in his dismissal request. ``Therefore, the cases against the two remaining defendants are hereby dismissed, there not being sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.″

The woman, who has since left the school, testified she had consensual sex with Cole, but then two other men emerged and forced themselves on her.

Williams said he walked out of a closet and fondled a 19-year-old female student. He told investigators he was physically unable to have sex with the woman, although his DNA was found during a rape exam.

``This case was presented to the grand jury, who heard a day and a half of testimony, and the citizens of this community thought this case should go to trial,″ Mauldin said. ``Twelve very good, decent folks in this community decided there was not sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. So I think the issue’s been decided by them.″

A Clarke County grand jury indicted the athletes in April, three months after the woman told campus police she had been accosted.

``I think justice was done,″ Thomas’ attorney, Mark Wiggins, said. ``There’s no doubt in my mind, there was some very difficult decisions to be made and a lot of soul-searching by the state.

``Steve claimed his innocence from the very beginning and never wavered from that,″ he said.

Last week, Williams was reinstated to the football team on probationary status, but suspended for the first three games of the season.

Thomas and Cole, who have been suspended from the team since their indictment, can apply for reinstatement. Athletic director Vince Dooley and coach Jim Harrick would decide whether to allow them back on the team.

That process could take several days, Georgia basketball spokesman Tim Hix said.

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