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Kicked off the UofM football team, Suttles pleads not guilty to rape charge

Ernest Suttles – now a former University of Memphis Football player – has a Dec. 5 preliminary hearing on the charge of raping a woman with whom he had been having a consensual sexual relationship.

Suttles, 23, entered a plea of not guilty on Monday during his appearance in General Sessions Court Division 10. The woman has told police that the incident happened on Oct. 12. In a filed affidavit, the woman told police that Suttles raped her during a visit to his home.

Suttles and his attorney say he is not guilty and that was the plea entered before Judge William Turner.

The UofM was set to play Navy when word came that the senior defensive lineman had been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules in an off campus incident.

“Suttles has been removed from campus while this matter is reviewed by the Office of Student Accountability, Outreach and Support for violations of the UofM Student Code of Conduct,” a UofM statement declared. “During the ongoing investigation, no additional comments will be made.

Sutters is the second UofM football player released from the team this season. In September, safety Shaun Rupert was kicked off the team after he was charged with aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and possession of a firearm during commission of a dangerous felony in April.

After the Saturday victory over Navy, head coach Mike Norvell was asked about the football program in light of the two dismissals and the incidents that prompted them.

“Since I have been here, a lot of people ask me why are we so open with the media, why are we so open with the community, why do we push so hard? I believe in how we do things,” he said. “I believe in what we are doing every single day. Trying to build the young men that we have.

“We have had some guys that have made some mistakes, that are embarrassing to our football team. At the end of the day, we stand for the right things. We are working to build the character of the young men that we have. I have seen that all throughout our program.”

Norvell called the players in the team’s locker room phenomenal men, adding that he was proud to coach them.

“I am proud to coach this team. I’m proud to represent this city. That is why we open our doors, we have nothing to hide,” he said.

Norvell said he and his coaching staff were working hard to help players make quality decisions for themselves and their futures. “(A)nd we are going to continue to do that.”

(The TSD Newsroom contributed to this story.)

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