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Five UK football players cleared after burglary charges file lawsuit against police

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Posted at 3:12 PM, Sep 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 13:35:01-04

(LEX 18) — Five of six University of Kentucky football players who were charged last year with burglary and later cleared have filed a federal lawsuit against the Lexington Police Department.

Andru Phillips, Vito Tisdale, Reuben Adams, JuTahn McClain, and Joel Williams filed separate lawsuits Wednesday against the police department, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Police Chief Lawrence Weathers, and two individual police officers.

The lawsuits allege malicious prosecution, fabrication of false evidence, failure to intervene, conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights, and defamation.

The lawsuits detail the events that led up to Phillips, Tisdale, and four other UK football players being charged with burglary. The charges against all six players were dismissed after a grand jury decided not to indict them. An investigation by the university also found no wrongdoing by the players.

At the time of the charges, police accused the six of “forcing entry” into a home on Forest Park Drive. Police had alleged that the group was asked to leave, and then been involved in a fight with people at the home that left multiple people injured.

In the lawsuits filed Wednesday, it states that the players who went to the Alpha Sigma Phi party at the Forest Park Drive home on March 6, 2021, had thought it was an “open invite.” But when two of the players, Reuben Adams and Joel Williams, arrived at the party, multiple people started calling them racial slurs and telling them to leave, according to the lawsuit.

While Adams and Williams were trying to leave, Williams was jumped by the people at the party before he could get out the door, according to the lawsuit. That's when Tisdale arrived at the party.

When Tisdale walked up to the front door, he was called a racial slur and physically assaulted, his lawsuit alleges. Tisdale then backed away and at no point returned to the residence, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also states that Tisdale did not have a gun at any point. At the time, police had charged him with wanton endangerment and accused him of having a gun at the party and pointing it at someone.

As Phillips was arriving at the party, he got a text that Williams had been jumped, according to the lawsuit. Phillips walked up to the open door to check on his friends, and a “female screamed at him to leave.”

Phillips asked the woman if she was okay, then heard male voices yelling racial slurs, according to the lawsuit.

“He did not witness any physical altercation, did not assault anyone, was not assaulted, and never saw anyone with a weapon,” according to the lawsuit. “There less than five minutes, Mr. Phillips walked back through the front yard and left the party.”

Phillips learned from the coaching staff that he was accused of assaulting people at the home, according to the lawsuit.

McClain also got a text message that Williams had been jumped, but the road to the home on Forest Park was already blocked by law enforcement by the time he got there, according to the lawsuit. He turned around and went home without getting out of his car.

The lawsuits accuse police of using unreliable information from accusers at the party when identifying and charging the players.

"Specifically, the accusers alleged that the fraternity members got together, 'threw names out' as to individuals they believed may have been present, and then looked through the football team’s roster to pick out individuals who they thought matched the name and description of those they saw the night of the party," one lawsuit states.

Each lawsuit stated that the men suffered damages to their reputation, college experience, education and future career.

Adams and Williams have since transferred from the University of Kentucky. Tisdale, Phillips and McClain still play for UK, though Tisdale is recovering from an injury.

A Lexington Police Department spokesperson said that the department is not able to comment on ongoing litigation. The University of Kentucky also had no comment on the lawsuit.