An alleged incident in the early-morning hours after the Gophers football team’s season opener seven weeks ago continues to have ramifications at midseason.
On Friday, a district court judge served three more Gophers — KiAnte Hardin, Ray Buford and Dior Johnson — with restraining orders, bringing to five the number of players banned from TCF Bank Stadium for Saturday’s homecoming game against Rutgers.
Teammates Carlton Djam and Tamarion Johnson were served with similar restraining orders earlier this week. None of the five players was arrested or charged.
Three of the players weren’t expected to play against Rutgers, but Hardin and Buford are two key members of the Gophers secondary. Without those two, Minnesota will again need to dig deeper into its cornerback depth.
Hardin, Buford, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson served a three-game suspension while police investigated the incident in question and were reinstated when Hennepin County announced it was declining to press charges.
The alleged victim from the Sept. 2 incident, who participates in the university’s home football game operation, petitioned the court to keep the five players away from TCF Bank Stadium, as well as her apartment, for two years.
A university spokesman reiterated the school’s statement from earlier in the week, which said: “It would not be appropriate for the university to comment on this matter to the extent it relates to university students. The university reaffirms, however, that it will honor and comply with court orders.”
A football team spokesman said coach Tracy Claeys had no additional comment.
Lee Hutton, the attorney for the five players, said they have a hearing Tuesday morning, at which he expects the restraining orders to be overturned.
“What we are going to do is aggressively defend this action,” Hutton said. “We are going to go on the offensive to show she only used the courts to destroy my clients’ lives.”
Amy Isenor, the attorney for the alleged victim, said, “At this time, we’re not going to comment.”
When Hennepin County announced it was declining to press charges, it released details about the investigation in its statement. But the Star Tribune does not typically publish details of investigations that do not involve an arrest or charges.
The restraining orders state that the alleged victim “has disrupted sleep” and “does not feel safe in [her] apartment building or on campus.”
They state that she “is afraid that after reporting to law enforcement that the situation will escalate.”
In one line, specific to Tamarion Johnson’s restraining order, the alleged victim states that he “taunted [her] on the street” at some point after the incident.
Hutton disputed all of that.
“I commend these guys’ resolve and their character and the respect they have shown,” Hutton said. “They have fully attempted to give her respect, give her privacy and give her the opportunity to enjoy her student life.”
On Friday, Buford tweeted, “Life was simple when people wasn’t out to get me.”
Buford’s father, Ray, works in law enforcement in Detroit. In an interview with the Star Tribune, the elder Buford said: “In the police investigation, all this stuff was shown to be untrue. For her to keep them from TCF Bank Stadium, it’s obvious the malicious intent she has.”
Isenor, the alleged victim’s attorney, declined to respond to those comments.
The absence of the five players will affect the Gophers on the field to varying degrees Saturday.
Hardin is a starting cornerback who made an interception against Iowa and Maryland, with coaches citing his return as a big reason for the defense’s resurgence. The Gophers ranked last in the Big Ten in passing defense heading into the Iowa game but held the Hawkeyes and Terps to one touchdown apiece.
Buford doesn’t start, but he’s part of the Gophers nickel package. Without him and Hardin, the team likely will go back to starting sophomore Antonio Shenault at cornerback, opposite Jalen Myrick.
Dior Johnson is a reserve safety who has yet to play for the Gophers, Tamarion Johnson is a defensive end who is expected to redshirt this year, and Djam is a reserve running back who had seven carries for 33 yards against Indiana State on Sept. 10.
Star Tribune staff writer David Chanen contributed to this story.