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Attorney: Ex-Florida Gator John Huggins ‘did not choke’ tutor

Gainesville attorney Ron Kozlowski describes Huggins’ exit from the Florida Gators as a mutual agreement.
Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen talks on the sideline to defensive back John Huggins (26) in the fourth quarter in a game against Colorado State University last season. (Times, 2018)
Published Aug. 13

Three days after John Huggins’ high-profile exit from the Gators, Huggins’ attorney addressed some of the questions that have been swirling around the defensive back’s past and future.

The attorney, Gainesville’s Ron Kozlowski, said Huggins admits that he could have handled some situations better at Florida but that an October police report that accused him of trying to strangle a female tutor was not right.

RELATED: Florida Gators dismiss defensive back John Huggins from team

“The report generally is accurate,” Kozlowski told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday. “Where it’s inaccurate is in one critical place.”

That critical place centers on tone.

Kozlowski said the tutoring sessions took place in a “light, playful atmosphere.” The University of Florida Police Department report that accused Huggins of battery mentions a previous incident in which an unnamed player braided the tutor’s hair.

Kozlowski said that context is key in understanding Huggins’ version of events of the Oct. 1 incident. The tutor took away Huggins’ phone to make sure that he would return to the lesson, which he often failed to do. Kozlowski said the woman’s remarks were done in a joking manner, and Huggins responded by joking back and putting his hands around her “the way, if you had a sister when you were a kid, you might do.”

Police observed no marks on the tutor’s neck, and she told police she could breathe the entire time.

“Absolutely no malicious intent whatsoever,” Kozlowski said. “He did not choke her.”

The police investigation ended quickly. The 19-year-old woman declined to pursue a criminal case, and she wrote in her sworn statement to police that she was “more worried about his studies” than in pressing charges.

Kozlowski said Huggins was not allowed on campus as UF’s office of student conduct and conflict resolution investigated. That led to Huggins’ absence from the team for five games last season. Huggins remained enrolled in classes and completed the requirements UF asked of him to return to good standing as a student and athlete. Coach Dan Mullen said that incident was fully handled at the time.

“The fact that he was still in school and still on the team should say to people that (the allegation) is not what it was made out to be at the very outset,” Kozlowski said.

Huggins only recorded three tackles as a backup and special teams contributor last season but was expected to play a key role in a thin secondary as a sophomore this fall. But Huggins never joined the team during preseason camp because of what UF called a family issue. Kozlowski said Huggins’ mother recently had surgery.

The focus on Huggins swelled last week when UF police released its October report. He became the fifth person involved with the Gators accused of violence or threatening violence against women in an 11-month span.

RELATED: Why I resurfaced October allegations against the Florida Gators’ John Huggins

“The media attention had become so intense,” Kozlowski said. “It had become intense for him. It was intense for the program, intense for Coach Mullen, and just why live with that, especially in light of everything that was written about this October incident? It just made it worse and compounded it. It was a real bad look, and there’s no reason to live with that if you don’t have to.”

So they stopped.

Mullen said Monday that the program dismissed Huggins for “not living up to what we expect of the Gator standard.” Kozlowski said Huggins and the Gators were “in complete agreement” to part ways.

Huggins has since entered the transfer portal and won’t be attending classes at UF during fall semester as he looks for a new destination to resume his college football career.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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