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Posted on Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 11:27 a.m.

Former U-M cornerback charged with rape pleads no contest to assault charge

By Art Aisner

A former University of Michigan football player accused of rape pleaded to lesser charges Thursday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court.

James Lavell Whitley, 30, was scheduled to stand trial Monday on a first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge stemming from a January incident. But he instead pleaded no contest to one count of aggravated assault.

A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as such at sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 21. Aggravated assault is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

County prosecutors agreed to drop the rape charge as part of the deal, and the former U-M cornerback no longer faces the possibility of a stiff prison sentence - despite a previous criminal conviction on weapons charges. Whitley’s status as a habitual offender was also dropped, and he will not appear on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.

Pittsfield Township police arrested Whitley at his Ann Arbor home just hours after a 31-year-old woman reported the assault in a friend’s apartment. The friend was romantically involved with Whitley and invited him over to her apartment after celebrating her birthday at a local bar, police said.

The woman said she went to sleep on an air mattress in the apartment and awoke while Whitley was sexually assaulting her.

Investigators said alcohol use by all parties involved was a major factor in the incident.

Marcus Connor, Whitley’s Royal Oak-based attorney, did not return messages Thursday or Friday. He denied the charges and proclaimed Whitley’s innocence in earlier interviews.

Whitley graduated from U-M with a degree in sports management and communications and was still affiliated in some capacity with the program while attempting to revive a playing career in the NFL, Connor previously said. The Norfolk, Va., native started more than 30 games during his collegiate career and was team co-captain before he was dismissed for carrying a concealed gun in Ann Arbor in 2000.

He was sentenced to one year of probation and 20 hours of community service after pleading guilty to the charge, court records show.

Whitley played in the Canadian Football League and then sparingly in the NFL for St. Louis, Green Bay and Carolina. He also played in the Arena Football League before it folded earlier this year.

Art Aisner is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Fri, Dec 18, 2009 : 12:16 p.m.

It must not have been a very good case for the prosecutor. You plead down a 1st degree CSC with possibility of life in prison to a misdemeanor. Must not have been that great of a case. They might as well just dismissed the charges. now since he doesn't have to register a sex offender is society really protected. But the kid from pittsfiend who had sex with his highschool girlfriend has to be on the sex offender list. Just goes to show people with money can buy justice.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 4:50 p.m.

Anonymous-- When you say it's a sexist assumption when both parties are drinking who is raping who, I believe that was answered by me several posts ago. The person who is initiating further sexual contact is the one who is responsible for making sure consent is given. Besides this, you are ridiculous if you think that women raping men is a common act. Rape is about power and control and not about sex at all. Of course it's happened, but statistically less than 5%. Beyond that, blaming the victim for what happened or somehow implying the woman made poor choices so she's partially to blame, only serves to make the perpetrator invisible. It is only the woman and her choices (she seemed to everything right to me) who seems visible in this picture. In fact, if Whitley was not known for U of M football, he would be even more invisible in this story. As was stated before, What about HIS poor decision making in choosing to sexually assault someone? And I guess it's true thzt there are natural born criminals, but most rapists do NOT fall in this category. They are often very likeable people who in every other way, live within the boundaries of the law. In fact, there are many rapists who don't consider themselves rapists at all because they feel so entitled, for example, if a woman chooses to sleep alone at her friends house, then what does she expect? It's this attitude your displaying, Bigotry, that continues to manifest these misconceptions about rape and sexual assault. These myths and misconceptions are what keeps this vicious cycle going in society (among other things), that keeps this happening over and over again because the accountability is not there. Anonymous due to bigotry, your name says it all. As an afternote, why does see it fit to run a big article on some guy who's been on the sex offender list for 6 yrs. due to having sex with his high school g/f who was one yr below the legal limit? Why now, piggybacking off of this story? Is it unconscious, unintentional or is there more to it? In poor taste and in poor judgement, int his readers VHO


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 11:14 p.m.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry, I'm confused that you somehow read my post and came away thinking that I meant women shouldn't take precautions in their own self-defense. I believe I called you out on your language, which did NOT blame the rapist for the rape, but the victim for being raped. My post was ONLY in response to your language and said nothing about women taking steps to protect themselves. I have actually helped to educated college age women to prevent sexual assault. There are absolutely behaviors that help a woman defend herself against assault and there are behaviors that make a woman more vulnerable. I never said anything to the contrary. Every college-age woman (and children as well) should be exposed to self-defense techniques as well as assertiveness training since, as you pointed out, the reality is there are rapists in the world. You should note, however, that despite a woman's smaller stature (on average), with the right training, she can be given the tools to defend herself and decrease the odds of being the victim of a completed rape (you seem to think women are not capable of this). I do, however, have to take issue with your language again. You used the term "risk-increasing behavior" and talked about "behaviors that risk antagonizing the wrong sort of person." You're blaming the victim again! What most people don't understand about rape is that it's a crime based on power. Period. A woman can't antagonize a man into raping her. A rapist (most often known to the victim) generally goes through a selection process where a possible victim is tested and boundaries are pushed. Unless a woman knows what to look for, she often has no idea this is occurring. In our society, women are taught to be passive and this is what a rapist looks for. The language of "risk" and "antagonism" is irrelevant in this context (i.e. being a woman is inherently a risk). Lastly, I don't even want to dignify your link with a response, but I feel I must. I am sure that there have been rare occurrences when a woman has sexually assaulted a man - I don't doubt this. However, if you are trying to convince me that this is a common phenomenon, you'll need to try a lot harder. I haven't read your book, but the synopsis mentions "sexually aggressive women." I don't recall seeing the word "rapist" there.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 8:10 a.m.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry You give sound advice, to bad some people will pay the price for not following it. It's to bad, but reality is we have natural born criminals, and natural born victims.


Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 8:07 a.m.

Cut to the chase boys and girls, if your an adult you know what the heck is going on in this crazy world, we can all analyze it till the end of time. Fact, we all know what happens to our own judgement when we drink. There are those amongst us possibly friends or strangers that can be dangerous if the circumstances are right and when you drink or use drugs your chances of encountering bad behavior increases even with people you THINK you know. Let's face the truth, if your drinking or using you are going to expose yourself to situations you would not normally encounter when sober. Whitley is a bad guy probably got away with a lot in his life and sounds like he's getting away with this. I would bet that unless this guy gets help or is forced to get long term help sooner or later this guys problems will escalate at the expense of some poor soul could be you or me. I don't know about this fellow but I do imagine that college's are bringing these football players to their schools at any cost. I read these sites and I see the impatience of Mich. fans to win at all cost and you can start to get a picture at how some of these bad guys fall though the cracks that is the long term picture. This country has been protecting its celebrities for a long time. Football is bad enough but the movie industry is notorious for protecting the money stars. Wake up boys and girls it all starts with us idolizing these so called,"STARS".

Sean T.

Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 5:41 a.m.

I agree with you Terrin.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 10:44 p.m.

longtimelocal: I agree that in this situation it doesn't sound like the victim did anything to excessively raise her risk. I initially misread the article and thought that she went home with the guy alone but in reality she was at a friend's apartment and the guy came over later. Unfortunately the attitude of arlys37 where one is unable to distinguish between blame and risk-increasing behavior seems to be way too typical and poses a serious danger to women, especially those in the highest risk group of 20 +/- 3 years or so. Technically you should be able to go into the ghetto and yell out racial slurs, or go into a biker bar and loudly comment on how biker guys are all a bunch of sissy wimpy men trying to act macho and not get attacked. If you were to do such a thing, you wouldn't be responsible for any violent crimes committed against you but you would be engaging in behavior that severely raises your risk of being attacked. Even without active verbal antagonism, going into a high crime area alone, unarmed, holding a huge wad of cash would also tend to raise your risk. So sorry, but I don't buy this idea that saying people should avoid behaviors that put them at risk constitutes "blaming the victim". People need to realize that they can both not be responsible for the actions of others but still avoid behaviors that risk antagonizing the wrong sort of person. It's this whole ridiculous attitude of "nothing you do can increase your chances of being raped" that endangers women, especially the young ones. Reality (biology) itself is sexist. The fact is that women are physically weaker and less able to defend themselves, for example. Saying you "should" be able to do whatever you want without it raising your risk of attack is silly. Nobody "should" attack anyone at all anywhere, but the people who do really don't care what anyone thinks they "should" do. They're criminals and they don't care about rage against the night marches or what mainstream society thinks is OK for them to do. Educating men and women as to what the law says and what is and isn't a good idea is great, but again I think people are guilty of this moralistic fallacy where they think that the scumbags who do sleazy things actually care and just somehow need to be convinced to change their views. In reality most of these people know what they're doing is wrong so trying to convince them that it's wrong is totally pointless. And if you want to talk about sexist assumptions, if two people are drunk and neither can legally consent to sex, who exactly is being raped? The fact is that sometimes it really is the guy being raped. See the following book on the subject:


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 6:39 p.m.

I work with the courts and survivors of sexual assault every day as well as educate the community about Sexual Assault for a living. So, actually, I know exactly what the law states. Thanks. Of course two people drink and go home and have consensual sex, it happens all the time. But, if anyone came back the next day and said, "I was really drunk and feel like he raped me. I don't remember giving consent." Law states that yes, she was unable to give consent legally since she was under the influence. Wolverine, you are absolutrely right in that about 90% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. But I don't understand where your coming from with the rest of it. Are you saying that since this is true, woman should never sleep anywhere but their own home and NEVER, under any circumstances, trust that you can go out in the world and live and love and trust. NEVER, say, go out to your friends birthday party and sleep at her house afterwards,because you've been drinking and shouldn't drive home. But it's totally fine because your friend has an air mattress you can sleep on. But, if you do get assaulted by say, your friends boyfriend in the middle of the night it is your fault because you should have known better. Why not instead say to men, "law states that if you're under the influence you can't give consent legally so be sure that you don't get yourself in that situation. If your not sure, ask. And if she seems really drunk, than don't have sex with her because she can't give consent. So it's against the law. We're talking rape. And because it's just the decent, human thing to do. More responsibility needs to be out on the men out there (who commit most rapes). More education is needed for men and at younger ages.


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 6:38 p.m.

"This is why getting drunk as hell and alone with some guy is an extremely bad idea." This is an archaic, sexist, and ignorant viewpoint - all it does is blame the victim instead of the rapist (i.e. it justifies rape). If a man were to get "drunk as hell" and be alone with a woman, would that be viewed as a "bad idea" for the man? Not likely, since the chance that the drunken man would be raped by the woman is beyond small. This is an unacceptable double standard. This is not about a woman's judgement or the amount that she drinks (or what she's wearing, or how many times she's has consensual sex in the past, or her "character", or where she's sleeping, or how late it is, etc.); it's about a man choosing to rape her. Seems to me HE is the one with the "extremely bad idea," wouldn't you say?


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 6 p.m.

longtimelocal, A person can absolutely consent to sex while under the influence of alcohol. Also, discrediting the character of the accuser is absolutely a defense to a rape charge. I am not sure where you obtained your law degree, but it might be beneficial to take a refresher course.


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 5:37 p.m.

Sorry about the prior comment I was mistaken on that. Everything else I say I stand by


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 5:31 p.m.

Law states that you cannot give consent if you are under the infliuence of alcohol, so the drunk argument is moot. Also, it is the responsibility of the person initiating further sexual contact to understand consent. Within the law Character has nothing to with these cases, false rape charges happen only 4% of the time or at the same rate as other crimes. It is often times upstanding people in the community that perpetrate, often choosing people who can be easily discredited, whether it be through circumstance or reputation. Ann is only reporting what was on the police report. The alledged victim did not sit down and talk to the paper. And even if Whitly wanted to talk, i'm sure counsel would advise against it.


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 4:39 p.m.

Pleading down to an assualt charge is all he could have done outside of spending the rest of his life in jail. Someone like Whitley needs to realize that being a FORMER UM and NFL athlete will only get you so far in life - your actions will catch up to you in the end. One day he will come across the wrong folks and KARMA will run its course...all in due time as the saying goes.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 4:08 p.m.

"The woman said she went to sleep on an air mattress in the apartment and awoke while Whitley was sexually assaulting her." So we have the woman's story, or at least an extremely simplified summary.... Where's the guy's story? Seems like for the sake of good journalism it would make sense to include that. Or could it not be obtained? This just seems like a classic questionable situation. Two drunk people.... In this situation, who the heck knows what happened before the woman woke up? She could have consented and then blacked out from the alcohol, etc., then forgotten what happened before. This is why getting drunk as hell and alone with some guy is an extremely bad idea. Instead of promoting safe behavior for women though, it seems like all I ever hear is stuff like "nothing justifies rape". Well duh! But I've got a news flash for ya: criminals, by definition, don't care! "You have a right to do whatever you want and not get raped" just doesn't cut it, because while true criminals do not care about your rights. Women should also know that only 10% of rapes are the "stranger jumps out of the bushes" type and 90% are more like this situation where the woman knows the guy. So if you're preparing to karate some guy in a parking lot you might want to spend some time learning about how to avoid the other 90% that you're not preparing for.


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 3:59 p.m.

Whitley's football career at U-M was certainly stained by his off-the-field problems. I don't think the concealed weapon conviction was his only incident. It's interesting that he was voted a co-captain by his teammates. Still, it's always sad to see bad things like this happen to former players.


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 1:57 p.m.

You'd be fool not to plead down a rape charge if you were a man. The system isn't fair when it comes to these type of charges. First, the alleged victim's name remains secret, while the defendant's name gets smeared all over the news. Even if acquitted, a person cannot recover from this fully. The penalty if convicted is very high, but the bar for being convicted is low. For instance, often there typically is no real evidence of rape except the alleged victim's word [think Kobi Bryant]. You'd think if the only evidence of a rape is somebody's word considering the high penalty, you'd allow evidence to show the character of the two people involved. Yet, the defense can't show evidence to the alleged victim's character, or substantial evidence of the character of the person being charged. They even have made it so in many cases, the defendant can't face the accuser. Further, most criminal cases are pleaded down including alleged rape.


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 12:53 p.m.

Men plead down rape cases all the time (if there is ever a charge, which usually, there is not) in every city in every county in the United States-- Not just Ann Arbor. And not just "celebrity" people. Just saying


Sat, Dec 12, 2009 : 11:34 a.m.

Great way to show an "alledged" rapist what the consequences for his actions are, gotta love our judicial system. If he was just an average guy, he'd not been allowed to plead down.