Ex-BYU player withdraws plea in rape case

Updated: January 5, 2006, 11:00 AM ET
Associated Press

PROVO, Utah -- Former Brigham Young football player Karland Bennett, who accepted a plea bargain in a purported rape while two teammates went on to trial and were acquitted, has been allowed to withdraw his plea.

Fourth District Court Judge Samuel McVey on Wednesday set aside the plea deal, in which Bennett had pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and dealing in harmful material to a minor and agreed to testify against the others.

The ruling means Bennett now faces the original charges of aggravated sexual assault, dealing harmful material to a minor, supplying alcohol to a minor and obstruction of justice.

The Utah County Attorney's Office must now decide whether to prosecute Bennett or drop the charges.

Prosecutor Donna Kelly said McVey's ruling will not be appealed, but she's not sure what their next legal action will be. She said she would talk to the family of the then 17-year-old Sandy girl who made the rape accusation and get their feelings.

"This young girl has been through a tremendous amount already," she said. "We do not want to put her though any more ordeals."

The girl's father contended Bennett was aware of what he was pleading to.

"You know, just because the system fails on one side, does that mean everybody walks?" he said Wednesday. "That doesn't make sense."

Bennett was one of four BYU football players charged in an August 2004 incident after the girl told police she had been given liquor and raped by several men in a Provo apartment. Two others present at the time were charged with lesser offenses and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of lying to police, with the charges to be dismissed after successful completion of probation.

Ibrahim Rashada and B.J. Mathis were acquitted by a jury. William Turner, who was 17 at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty in juvenile court to forcible sodomy, got no jail time and testified for the prosecution that the players took advantage of a "barely conscious" girl.

Bennett, in seeking to withdraw his plea, contended that prosecutors had promised him that his punishment would not be worse than that of his co-defendants, and that if they were acquitted the charges against him would be dismissed.

Kelly said any agreement regarding comparable sentencing or dropped charges was not part of the plea deal.

"Mr. Bennett entered his plea because of a reasonable expectation his punishment would be no more severe than that of his co-defendants and that all charges against him would be dropped if his co-defendants were acquitted," McVey ruled. "Therefore, this court finds Mr. Bennett was genuinely and legitimately confused about the plea agreement and [pleaded] guilty with an exaggerated belief in the benefits of his plea."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press