NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Friday, March 4, 2016, 6:32 PM
Something very foul is afoot.
From all indications, it appears that the family of Peyton Manning has floated a highly questionable witness to some of their favorite media outlets in an attempt to cloud public judgment and discredit thousands of pages of sworn testimony regarding allegations that the quarterback sexually assaulted a respected staffer at the University of Tennessee decades earlier.
If so, both the Manning family and the media outlets who erroneously reported the incredible claims of this new witness, have made a real mistake.
Out of nowhere, after 20 years of silence and complete invisibility, the former roommate (and teammate) of Peyton Manning has now emerged to say something that absolutely nobody has ever heard him say before…he was in the room when Peyton Manning was alleged to have sexually assaulted Dr. Jamie Naughright, and her story, according to him, is a huge lie.
In recently published reports, Greg Johnson, now a law enforcement officer, claims that he reached out to Manning after the Daily News released documents detailing the incident. Johnson then claimed after he reached out to Manning that Manning’s representatives directly encouraged him to tell his story.
The astonishing new presence of this star witness is not a slight oversight. It’s more like a full blown scandal and it absolutely fits the M.O. of the Manning family to circulate tall tales about this case when such a thing simply wasn’t necessary and will likely cause them brand new problems.
It appears Peyton Manning and dad Archie Manning have floated a highly questionable witness – Peyton’s former college roommate Greg Johnson – to refute claims the former Tennessee QB sexually assaulted staffer Jamie Naughright.
It’d be akin to a brand new witness coming forward and claiming that he and O.J. Simpson were actually playing poker all night long while Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered and that O.J., O.J.’s attorneys, and in fact everybody who knew anything about the case, had simply forgotten to mention it these past few decades.
No big deal.
Twenty years ago, Naughright, who served as the Director of Health and Wellness for Men’s Athletics at the University of Tennessee, reported that she was sexually assaulted by Manning.
A highly respected trainer, professor, and administrator, Naughright was seen by many as a pioneer at the university where she earned her bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees. Reporting the incident effectively served as the beginning of the end of her long career at the university.
The News, ESPN’s Outside the Lines, and VICE have all reviewed thousands of pages of documents in this case stemming from the day the incident took place in 1996, through lengthy hearings and settlements at the University of Tennessee, and through an explosive lawsuit that the Mannings settled with Dr. Naughright in 2003.
Speaking confidentially with The News, an attorney involved with the 2003 lawsuit was both shocked and appalled at the outrageous appearance of a bombshell witness.
“Mind you — this case lasted nearly two years. The lawsuit was not just against the Manning family, but Harper-Collins, one of the largest publishing houses in the world. We interviewed every single person who was even near that space. Not a single person, including Peyton Manning himself, ever mentioned even a hint that Greg Johnson was in the room that day.
Johnson says he was in the room with Peyton Manning and Jamie Naughright (pictured) 20 years ago and says Manning never stuck his genitals in Naughright’s face.
“You mean to say that they had a man who could openly state that Jamie Naughright and two athletes, Malcolm Saxon and Kevin Horne, who were all in that room at one time or another, had basically made this whole thing up on Manning, but they just kept that to themselves? It’s disturbing. I honestly think the lengths they will go to cover this up may now be as big or bigger as the story of what actually happened on that day.”
The attorney went on, “Not only that, but I listened to hours and hours of interviews that the author John Underwood did of the Manning’s as the ghostwriter for their book, and they never, not once, mentioned that Peyton’s own roommate, Greg Johnson, saw and disputed this incident. Keep in mind when they did those interviews, this lawsuit had not yet taken place and they were free to speak openly. They mention Jamie, they mention Malcolm Saxon, but they never mention Greg Johnson. It’s incredible that they are pushing this man out there now.”
“Now, Malcolm Saxon was a very convincing witness, but trust me, if the Mannings had a bombshell person who they thought could’ve corroborated Peyton’s story, it would’ve done real damage to our case. It never happened.”
Under oath, witness after witness, person after person, staff member after staff member, detailed who was in the room when Manning was alleged to have sexually assaulted Naughright
In consulting with attorneys who were on the case and with multiple media outlets who have since reviewed it, we all agree that Johnson was never mentioned.
In his own defense, under oath, even Manning never stated that his roommate, Johnson was there. This is no small fact. Johnson has said that he did not come forward in 2003 because he was serving in Iraq at the time. In fact, according to VICE, he was in the United States during parts of 2003, including on the campus of the University of Tennessee. Even if had not been in the states, this has nothing at all to do with the fact that not a single person ever mentioned him as a key witness.
Mike Rollo, who was was Dr. Naughright’s supervisor at the University of Tennessee, under detailed examination, never once named Johnson as a witness in any shape, form, or fashion.
Manning, who helped lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl win in February, maybe isn’t the squeaky clean hero the sports media want him to be.
In Peyton Manning’s own book, in which he detailed the incident, he doesn’t mention Greg Johnson.
Now, speaking for the very first time about the incident with T.J. Quinn of ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Kevin Horne, who was teammates with both Manning and Johnson, categorically refuted that Johnson was ever there.
“I never saw him. I saw that story and I’m like, ‘Greg Johnson?’ I like Greg, but, sorry, I don’t remember that.”
Greg Johnson now claims that he basically came in the training room just in time for the incident and left soon thereafter.
“I was facing the door, but I could also see the whole training room,” said Horne to ESPN.
In exhaustive depositions, both Naughright and Manning mention the presence of Horne and Saxon in the room, but never Greg Johnson.
Sean Newell, of VICE Sports, was also astonished when he began seeing the new reports of the mystery witness emerging out of thin air,
“To present the facts and let the reader decide is an admirable mission statement, but I don’t know if that’s what happened here. The frankly bizarre emergence of a new witness after 20 years of silence, which makes up the story’s first act, is quickly abandoned in favor of talking about Naughright — or, to be more specific, recording a lot of (mostly negative) opinions about Jamie Naughright’s character.”
It’s almost as if the Manning’s can’t help but do it this way.
In 2001, Dr. Jamie Naughright had fully moved on from the University of Tennessee and restarted her career at Florida Southern when Peyton and Archie Manning decided to throw her under the bus in their new book. She sued them for defamation and they settled the suit with her.
Over the course of that two-year lawsuit, athlete after athlete testified that Peyton Manning repeatedly lied about an incident that he claimed took place with Dr. Naughright in Charlottesville, Va.
Teammates Eric Lane, Scott Pfeiffer and Tyrone Hines each said that Manning’s telling of the story was completely wrong and without merit. Geno Devane, a track and field athlete, concurred.
“Peyton Manning was concocting this story as he testified,” said one of the original attorneys to The News. “Look at the records, look at the affidavits, we nailed him on it. We couldn’t find one single teammate of his who would testify that he was telling the truth about this story. It was astonishing.”
Of course, none of this quite matches the public persona of the athlete and pitchman much of the country grown to know and love. A lot doesn’t add up.
Peyton Manning’s time at Tennessee was more than just throwing TDs and winning titles.
Athlete Malcolm Saxon testified that he was “shocked” by what Manning did to Naughright and stated repeatedly that it was not a mooning and that he had never called it as a mooning. In a letter he begged Manning to own up to what he did.
Athletes Eric Lane, Scott Pfeiffer, Tyrone Hines, and Geno Devane all testified that Peyton Manning misrepresented a key story about Dr. Jamie Naughright.
Teammate Kevin Horne, who has no dog in this fight, openly and publicly refuted the claim that the man who admits the Manning’s sent him to press to tell his story was even in the room the day the incident was alleged to have taken place.
Peyton himself never mentioned this man once in his sworn testimony as being a witness.
One well worn tool in the Manning cabinet is throwing his wife Ashley under the bus.
In the end, in a lot of ways, this story is about the lengths people, including the press, will go to protect Peyton Manning in spite of mounting evidence that he’s not quite who we think he is. The widely respected Christine Brennan said as much 13 years ago but it never quite caught on.
One well worn tool in the Manning cabinet is throwing his wife under the bus.
When the family dog bit a groundskeeper a few years back, he dodged depositions by claiming that his wife owned the dog and not him.
When asked what he thought about the very damning letter sent to him by Malcolm Saxon asking him to come clean on what really happened to Dr. Jamie Naughright, Peyton claimed that before he could ever read it that his wife sent it to his father.
Now, it also appears that Manning is perfectly content to throw his wife under the bus with the HGH scandal. His own spokesperson is now confirming that his wife was receiving shipments from the clinic which claimed to have sent him HGH, but Manning denies it had anything to do with him.
At what point are we willing to admit that our sports heroes, as amazing as they may appear to be on the field and in commercials, function sometimes as a peculiar part of our lived imagination? We want them, sometimes need them, to be greater and better than they may really be.