Tony Cole invited a UGA co-ed over to his McWhorter Hall dorm room around 9:00pm, where they engaged in consensual sex. Unknown to the victim Brandon Williams was hiding in a closet in the room. When Cole went to the bathroom, Williams came out of the closet and forced the victim to have sex with him. During the sexual assault Cole called Steve Thomas and told him they were "running a train." Thomas came to Cole's apartment and with Cole's encouragement sexually assaulted the victim.
When the victim returned to her own room about 11:00pm she told a friend, who encouraged her to call the police. However, the victim was afraid to make charges against three athletes who were well-known on campus. The victim then called her mother and told her what happened. The victims mother then called police.
The three athletes, Steve Thomas (center, basketball), Tony Cole (guard, basketball) and Brandon Williams (cornerback, football) were initially arrested and released. The victim told police she and Cole had consensual sex in his dorm room, but afterward, a man later identified as Brandon Williams emerged from Cole’s closet and sexually assaulted her. The woman stated that Thomas then entered the room and sexually assaulted her. On January 17, 2002 the students were suspended, pending an outcome of the investigation.
Two days later the University's Department of Public Safety director announced they were wrapping up the investigation and only had to "compare notes" with the county attorney. On January 29, Williams was re-instated, drawing the wrath of a number of people both on and off-campus. At the time, UGA was in the middle of the basketball season and headed for the NCAA tournament. Williams, who was a starter, was viewed as a key team player.
The indictment of the three players came after Georgia had been eliminated from the tournament. NCAA rules require suspension if a player is indicted on felony charges.
A Clarke County, Georgia
jury acquitted the Brandon Williams in spite of the victim's testimony about the sexual assault. Williams had chosen local attorney Kim Stephens, himself a football player, to defend him. Charges against the other two athletes were later dropped.
Jim Harrick Sr., University of Georgia basketball coach, refused to permit Tony Cole to return to the team for the 2002-2003 season. Cole remained on scholarship, but left the University in January, 2003. Later, Cole revealed that he had received an A in a class taught by Herrick's son. He never attended the class, turned in homework or taken tests. As a result Herrick, his son and another man were dismissed from the University, and Vince Dooley withdrew the team from the NCAA tournament (2003).
The victim filed a $25 million suit against the university as a result of her assault. She claimed that the slow response of UGA to her report of the assault was a result of the status of the athletes. The victim also claimed Cole, who was not named in the suit, had a history of sexual misconduct and that school officials exposed her to danger by recruiting him. A six figure out-of-court settlement with the University of Georgia was reached in 2007, ending the sexual harassment suit. As part of the agreement, Brandon Williams was acquitted of any wrongdoing, and criminal charges against Cole and Thomas were dropped.