If you had asked me when I was a student at the University of Florida who is Huntley Johnson, my answer would have been this: The guy who represents all the football players. Football players exist in the bizarre NCAA unreality where those in power refuse to pay their most necessary workers a living wage but somehow they still land the best defense lawyer in town every time. Johnson was and is a very good defense lawyer and a Florida alum; the popular photo of him shows a pile of Gators caps in his office.
That’s the expected narrative. What’s happened lately is different; Johnson has turned his investigative prowess on his alma mater itself. Michael Vasquez over at the Chronicle of Higher Education has a feature on how Johnson has peppered Florida with more than 75 public record requests this year, and how the results have generated plenty of bad headlines for the school. (I worked for several years with Vasquez at the Miami Herald). As Vasquez reports, Johnson’s ire began when he represented football player Antonio Callaway in a student-conduct case when Callaway was accused of sexual assault.
Callaway was found not responsible, but Johnson still wasn’t happy with what happened. (The student who filed the complaint also felt the process was unfair when the final adjudication was done by a football booster and boycotted the hearing.) Afterward, Johnson sent the university a letter with demands.
In a letter, he requested changes in how sexual-assault cases are handled, including how accused students are treated during an investigation. He also wanted the university to pay nearly $400,000 of the legal fees of the football player, Antonio Callaway.
If those conditions weren’t met, Mr. Johnson wrote, there would be consequences.
The university didn’t meet his demands, and the rampage began. A few of those highlighted in Vasquez’s report:
- Johnson says that he felt Florida’s general counsel, Jamie L. Keith, lied to him “on more than one occasion” during the Callaway investigation. Johnson got copies of employee surveys from the general counsel’s office that said Keith “covertly schemes and manipulates situations, facts and people.” The university also is investigating a claim that Keith “edited some of those employee responses to make them less critical.”
- He found a copy of an internal audit that showed various conflicts of interest and “spending irregularities” in the selection of construction firms to build the $3.4 million presidential house.
- The university had insisted publicly that former Title IX official Chris Loschiavo, who at one point handled the Callaway investigation before being taken off of it, had been let go due to a “conflict of interest and lack of independence.” When Johnson found out that Loschiavo had gotten another job—with a glowing recommendation from his former boss at Florida—he put pressure on the university to publicly say that it had also been because Loschiavo had been buying porn with his work email.
Johnson is no saint; he’s a defense lawyer. His past clients include Aaron Hernandez. A former secretary once sued him and won for persistent verbal abuse and “repeated, offensive, unwelcomed physical contact.” While reading Vasquez’s feature, I kept returning to the old saying, “Keep your attack dog fed.” And yet, as history shows, it is exactly this type of motivation has uncovered scandal after scandal. The motivations of few are ever truly pure.
The full feature, which is well worth your time, can be read here.