UF’s Tyree Appleby seeks transfer; named possible witness in Keyontae Johnson sex assault case

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'Nah, I don’t know anything about that.'

Tyree Appleby, the starting guard in the University of Florida’s men’s basketball lineup, is reportedly entering the transfer portal to play his final season at another school, as police identified him as involved as a witness in their sexual assault investigation against Appleby’s famous roommate and teammate, Keyontae Johnson.

Appleby, 23, of Jacksonville, Arkansas, was among five people listed by name as involved in the case on a Gainesville police incident report made available this week. Witnesses placed Appleby at an invitation-only pool party Feb. 26 at the apartment complex where a 19-year-old former UF student has accused Johnson of sexually assaulting her in the apartment Johnson shares with Appleby.

A police spokesman, Graham Glover, said “others involved” on incident reports are typically in the category of witnesses in a criminal investigation, not co-conspirators or people suspected of involvement in a crime. It was not otherwise clear exactly why police connected Appleby to their investigation.

Contacted by phone, Appleby said over the weekend he knew nothing about the police investigation or the allegation of sexual assault, and did not know the woman accusing his roommate. “Nah, I don’t know anything about that,” he said before hanging up. He declined Monday night and Tuesday to respond to a phone message and texts asking about his role in the case after he was named on the police report.

Two others also listed in the police report under the description of “others involved” in the case included the accuser’s close friends, both UF students, who were at the party. A third was a Gators football player romantically involved with the accuser who confronted Johnson after she told him the player had taken advantage of her. The fourth person was a 20-year-old Tampa woman who was not a UF student.

Police filed a sworn complaint against Johnson last week in Alachua County Circuit Court describing the case against him. The police incident report was obtained Monday under Florida’s public records law.

Johnson, 22, of Norfolk, Virginia, has not been formally charged or arrested. He said the woman was drunk but initiated consensual sex with him in his apartment bedroom after she asked to leave the party to use his bathroom, according to a phone call March 4 between Johnson and his accuser that police organized and overheard.

Florida law requires that an adult sexual partner provide “intelligent, knowing and voluntary consent” to avoid a charge of sexual battery, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison upon conviction.

In other cases where victims were “mentally incapacitated” because they were unable to legally give consent due to drugs or alcohol administered without their consent, prosecutors could pursue a first-degree felony charge punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Police do not believe those circumstances occurred in this case, according to court records.

Appleby averaged 10.9 points per game this season, including 21 at Georgia in a noon game hours before the team returned and he was seen at the pool party. He played two seasons under recently resigned Coach Mike White at Florida, after transferring to Gainesville from Cleveland State. He has one additional year of NCAA eligibility because of rules adopted over the pandemic.

The UF assistant athletic director for men’s basketball, Denver Parler, said Tuesday that neither the UF athletics department or White was aware of the sexual assault allegation against Johnson before March 5.

That was the day the university honored Johnson — who collapsed during a game in December 2020 and never practiced or played again — with a ceremonial start on senior day against No. 7 Kentucky. Johnson dribbled briefly near midcourt before hugging his teammates. He dropped to the floor and kissed the giant Gators logo as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

That happened one day after police secretly arranged the phone call with Johnson’s accuser.

Multiple news outlets confirmed a report Monday by CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein that Appleby was entering the transfer portal but has not identified the school where he wants to play his final season. White was hired at Georgia after another season at Florida so disappointing that his job was at risk.

Parler, the assistant athletic director, also said Tuesday that, to his knowledge, Appleby had not officially entered the transfer portal.

Johnson’s attorney, Ron Kozlowski, has said Johnson was “disappointed and discouraged” about the woman’s accusations and that he believes prosecutors will decline to file charges in the case.

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T.J. Legacy-Cole reporting; produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @legacycoleworld.

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