On the eve of the beginning of Tennessee’s fall camp, many questions remain unanswered surrounding senior receiver Von Pearson, who was named a suspect in the investigation of an alleged rape on April 24, 2015, and has remained one now for 102 days with few answers.
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones was asked about Pearson’s status at his pre-fall camp press conference on Monday and had little in terms of new information.
“Same status, nothing has changed in regards to Von,” Jones said, repeating the line that he has used in various interviews over the course of the summer.
Pearson’s attorney, Chris Coffey, spoke to RockyTopInsider.com on Monday and also said that there’s little new information surrounding the investigation.
“I really can’t provide an update on the status of it other than the district attorney is reviewing the case and we’re just waiting to hear what’s going to happen next,” Coffey said. “Von’s status has remained the same in terms of his status with the University [of Tennessee] since early May. Nothing’s changed and we haven’t heard anything really from anybody.”
Pearson’s status with the University is that he’s on “interim suspension,” according to Coffey, who said he was not given a reason for why that decision was made.
“When the allegation was raised on April 24, on April 27, they notified him [Pearson] that he was on interim suspension, but that he had a right to appeal that decision,” Coffey said. “And then he did appeal that decision and had a hearing at the University, and that same day they lifted his interim suspension and informed him that could continue to be an active student and so forth and continue to take classes. Then two days later, we were notified that the decision to lift his suspension had been overturned and we asked for the basis for overturning that and they have never responded.”
Coffey went on to point out what he views as an inconsistency in how he believes Pearson is being treated by the University’s administration.
“The question that I see as important in this situation is why Mr. Pearson, who has not been charged with any criminal offense, at this point, why he remains on interim suspension at the University when there are other student-athletes who are currently charged with very serious offenses and they are not suspended from school,” he said. “They are listed as active students, and I’ve asked the question, but nobody will give me an answer, and certainly Mr. Pearson is interested in what the answer to that would be.”
Another big question surrounding this process involves duration of the investigation. Why, after over 100 days, does Pearson remain in legal limbo – not charged with anything, but also not cleared? Coffey acknowledged that ongoing investigations can vary in length, but also said that this particular one has gone on an unusual length of time.
“We’re going on almost four months now and haven’t heard a word from anybody, so that’s unusual in my experience,” he said. “You know, it’s an ongoing investigation and those things do happen, but this is somewhat unusual that it’s taken this long in my experience.”
It’s a process that, understandably, has been taxing on Pearson. The Newport News, Va., native and 2014 junior college transfer had a solid first-year campaign in Knoxville, fighting off an ankle injury that cost him three full games and portions of others. He still managed to finish second on the team in both receptions (35) and yardage (393), while leading the team with five touchdown receptions.
His future will remain in doubt until some form of progress is made in this process.
“It’s taken a huge toll [on Pearson],” Coffey said. “He’s doing the best he can to forge ahead, but as you can imagine, his life, his academic future, his football future – everything has kind of been put on hold. For a young man like him, that’s extremely difficult.”
So as Pearson’s teammates return to Haslam Practice Field on Tuesday night, he will continue to wait and search for answers. The time frame remains unclear. Many of the questions surrounding the whole process remain unanswered.
“We don’t have any information about when the state might move forward with charges or when they might not,” Coffey confirmed.
Practice is set to begin, but the wait will continue for Pearson.