An allegation by a former University of Tennessee trainer who accused NFL star Peyton Manning of pressing his buttocks and genitals against her face while she examined his ankle was cataloged in 1996 by a sexual assault crisis center worker as "sexual assault/abuse," according to documents reviewed by Outside the Lines.
Less than three hours after the Feb. 29, 1996, training room incident, then-trainer Jamie Naughright called a Knoxville sexual assault crisis center hotline and said she had been victimized that evening by a "very well-known public figure ... an athlete at UT" and that she had already reported the incident to her supervisor.
According to the document, Naughright did not name Manning and did not want to discuss details of the assault over the phone because she "feared for her job, worried and feared for her life." Notes written by the crisis center worker quote Naughright as saying, "I can't believe this ... sense there will be a cover-up."
Manning was never the subject of a criminal investigation in the incident. But in a 1996 complaint against the University of Tennessee, Naughright accused Manning of assaulting her while she examined his ankle. Manning has denied that he assaulted her, saying instead that he was "mooning" another athlete. But that athlete, cross-country runner Malcolm Saxon, disputed Manning's account in an affidavit and said both he and Naughright were shocked by the incident at the time. Naughright agreed to leave the university as part of a $300,000 settlement.
The document from Naughright's call to the crisis center is buried in more than a thousand pages of court documents that were part of a 2002 libel and defamation lawsuit she filed after Manning and his father, Archie, published a book that described the incident as a "mooning" and referred to Naughright (though not by name) as having a vulgar mouth.
Under the portion of the crisis center form that asks whether and to whom a caller has reported a crime, it says yes and lists Naughright's boss at the time, head trainer Mike Rollo.
According to the notes, "Rollo told her tonite ... I don't think this is best handled by press or police." That description resembles what Rollo later said in a deposition related to the lawsuit: That he had seen Naughright at a friend's house that evening and that they should not call the police or media. The incident was never reported to police.
Rollo said in his deposition that Naughright never described the incident as a "mooning" and he had come up with the description. In his deposition, he said he regretted it.
Manning's defenders have noted that Naughright did not say Manning had made physical contact with her until the 2002 lawsuit and accused her of embellishing the story. In 1996, she had signed a document that said, "He pulled his pants down and exposed himself to me, as I was bent over examining his foot, after asking me personal questions."
In his deposition, Rollo said he did not recall Naughright ever saying that Manning made contact with her. He did, however, testify that she was clearly distraught from the beginning and that seemed out of character for her, as she was someone who tended to roll with the hyper-masculine culture of the athletic department.
Rollo said he knew of at least two other times when Naughright had seen athletes moon one another, and she had not expressed any offense.
During the deposition, her attorney, Robert Puterbaugh, had the following exchange with Rollo, who had known Naughright for seven years:
Puterbaugh: "You didn't think that she was faking this, did you?"
Rollo: "I never had that impression."
Puterbaugh: "All right."
Rollo: "She was upset. I have no question of that."
They continued later.
Puterbaugh: "Is it fair to say that in February of 1996 you would not have thought that Jamie would be upset from a mere mooning, correct?"
Rollo: "That's what struck me as so bizarre about this whole situation: That she was distraught, she was upset, and it seemed unusual."
A short time later, Puterbaugh asked, "And is it fair to say that at no time ever has Jamie [Naughright] ever referred to this incident as a mooning?"
Rollo: "No, unfortunately, I think that tagging is with me."
The official university investigation in 1997 termed the incident "horseplay that cannot be prevented" after interviewing Naughright, Manning and Saxon. Saxon, in the affidavit in the defamation case, disputed that he was quoted accurately. The University of Tennessee has declined to discuss the investigation since it was completed in 1997 and did not return a phone call from ESPN.
Saxon was not deposed in the lawsuit. Reached last week, he said in a text, "I have said 'no comment' for 20 years. I have moved on."