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Former Y. players acquitted on rape charges

PROVO — A jury acquitted two former Brigham Young University football players on Friday of charges of raping a girl at their apartment.

The jury exonerated B.J. Mathis and Ibrahim Rashada of accusations of taking advantage of the 17-year-old Sandy girl after a night of drinking.

Mathis and Rashada, who no longer are students at the school, were cleared of charges of aggravated sexual assault, obstruction of justice and furnishing alcohol to a minor.

Two other players faced the same charges but entered plea agreements, as did two more players, who had faced lesser charges. None of the players remains with the team or the school.

"I'm overwhelmed," Rashada told Salt Lake television station KUTV. He called the allegation a "tragedy."

"I feel relieved, blessed," Mathis said. "We wish the best for her, that she can get on with her life."

Prosecutors said they did their best in a "difficult" case, and the family of the alleged victim issued a statement applauding her resolve to bring the case to court.

During the trial, former defendant William Turner Jr. testified the players took advantage of a "barely conscious" girl. Turner pleaded guilty in juvenile court to forcible sodomy.

The woman testified that Mathis forced her to perform oral sex, but could not say definitively that Rashada was in the room that night.

Rashada, a defensive back from Augusta, Ga., played in five games as a freshman and had one tackle. Both he and Mathis, a return specialist who red-shirted last fall, were kicked off the team after an Honor Code investigation by the school.

They were among a group of six freshmen, none of whom are still with the team, who were charged in the case. Defensive back Karland Bennett was charged with sexual assault, but pleaded guilty to reduced charges of obstruction of justice and dealing harmful material to a minor.

Bennett, who testified in the trial, admitted to agreeing with the other players to lie to police and Honor Code investigators about the alleged rape in August 2004. But Bennett insisted the sex acts at his apartment that night appeared to be consensual.

Linebacker William Turner Jr., who was 17 at the time, had his case moved to juvenile court.

Two other former players who were charged with lying to police are on probation and will have the misdemeanor charges dropped from their records if they abide by the terms.

Receiver Antwaun Harris, 19, entered a plea to a misdemeanor charge of making false statements to a police officer, and defensive back Billy Skinner, 19, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of attempted dealing harmful material to a minor.

The woman said she was raped by a group of men at the apartment after they coaxed her into drinking vodka, forcing her to watch pornography and passing out in a bedroom.

BYU students all sign the Honor Code, which prohibits the use of alcohol, tobacco and sex outside of marriage. Violating it can lead to punishment including suspension or expulsion.