Saturday, April 7, 2007

More Ugliness Brewed at Minnesota

Just when it appeared that things could not get any worse for a University of Minnesota athletics department which is losing millions, and carries debt in line with a small developing country, new head Football coach Tim Brewster has a situation on his hands. Three of his players, junior Alex Daniels, and sophomores E.J. Jones and Keith Massey have been jailed for the suspected rape, on Wednesday morning, of an 18-year old woman. Bail has been set at $100,000 for each of the players, and they have been suspended from the team. Inconveniently for Brewster and Minnesota, the news has come out in the same week as the annual spring scrimmage, and they have taken steps:

Meanwhile, U athletic officials tried not to let news of the arrests infiltrate this afternoon's annual spring scrimmage, in which several thousand alumni and fans turned out at the Metrodome.

Players were told by communications staff not to discuss the situation, which has resulted in suspensions for the three players. Reporters were told that if they raised the issue, interviews would be cut short.

First-year coach Tim Brewster, who suspended the players upon learned of the arrests, this afternoon declined to discuss the situation beyond his comments yesterday that he would cooperate with the police investigation. . . .

"Obviously, this is disappointing news for any coach to receive," the first-year coach said in a statement. "There is an on-going investigation and we will cooperate fully with law enforcement on this matter."

When reached Friday evening, Gophers athletics director Joel Maturi said he knew little of the incident.

"It's in the hands of University of Minnesota police, as it should be, and we will support their investigation," Maturi said. "At the same time, we will support the young men that were recruited to Minnesota until we find out what the facts are."

Considering the ugly media circus surrounding the Duke case, upon which KC Johnson has so effectively blogged, both Brewster and Maturi are probably wise in keeping their comments to a minimum. In the Duke case, the prosecutors also have an excellent example of how NOT to proceed. Lets hope for a thorough, effective, and speedy investigation, which results either in the players exoneration, or trial and conviction, as the evidence warrants. Most importantly, best wishes to the victim on her recovery.
Update: Details from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

If the Hennepin County Attorney's Office does not file charges against them by noon Monday, the three would be released from the Hennepin County jail, said University Police Chief Greg Hestness. . . .

According to Hestness, the alleged rape occurred late Tuesday or early Wednesday at the University Village Apartments on University Avenue, where the players live.

He said that the 18-year-old woman is not a resident there and that she is not a University of Minnesota student.

Hestness said police are continuing to investigate, and he would not discuss how the woman and players encountered each other, or what led to the alleged attack.

He also did not discuss details of the allegations, though he noted the players "were booked on criminal sexual conduct in the third degree. And that usually does involve penetration, nonconsensual penetration."

On the day of the incident, the woman did go to a hospital for a sexual-assault examination, and was offered services from victim advocates, according to a police report.

Early Friday, she flagged down a university officer who was on patrol to report the rape, Hestness said.

"It's really not uncommon for victims of sexual assault to delay reporting," he said. "It's a difficult decision for a lot of women."

Several detectives began investigating the incident, including searching the apartment complex Friday, he said. The players were then arrested and booked at the jail just before 9 p.m.

Update (2): WCCO in Minneapolis is reporting a couple more crucial details:

The 18-year-old woman who reported being sexually assaulted is not a University of Minnesota student. Police say she did know the accused players.

"We have good cooperation from witnesses. What we've heard so far is corroborative of the victim's initial report,” said Greg Hestness, Chief of University Police.
Update (3): Charge or Release/Lawyer's Comments

While the Hennepin County attorney's office could file charges at any time,
the players would have to be released from custody if charges are not filed
by noon today. . . .

On Sunday, Jeff DeGree, the attorney for Jones,
said he is "cautiously optimistic" that charges won't be filed.

Update (4): Suspects released pending further investigation/Lawyerspeak
Three University of Minnesota football players suspected of being involved
in the alleged rape of an 18-year-old woman are being released from jail today, pending further investigation. . . .

Jeff DeGree, representing Jones, said of his client, “Obviously he’s very
happy. I’m not surprised. This is what I expected to happen. These are not very credible allegations. They’re all good kids, great students.

"All three guys are good, serious students and are dedicated to be
football players. It’s a terrible experience for them.”

DeGree said his client will try to “live his life as normally as possible,
go back to school and, I think, he’ll soon be back on the football team. He’s
very, very upset and wants to put it behind him. He didn’t do anything wrong. “Ultimately, these are 19-, 20-year-old kids and I don’t know where they go to get their reputations back.

“They’re not the kind of guys a coach worries about on Friday night."

As Massey left the jail he declined to comment except to say. “I want to
thank everyone who supported us.”

Daniels left separately and would say only “go Gophers.” . . .
Update (5): UM taking the high road in its statement:

"The University of Minnesota takes allegations of sexual misconduct and violent crime very seriously. Everyone, from the central administration to the department of intercollegiate athletics, is cooperating with law enforcement throughout the course of this investigation.

"In coordination with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, the University of Minnesota Police Department continues to investigate the alleged crime. These are serious matters and obviously demand a thorough investigation.

"These student-athletes are innocent until proven guilty and continue to be students of the University of Minnesota and attend classes. They have relocated to off-campus housing until the completion of the investigation and also remain on suspension from the football team until the investigation is complete."

Update (6): Alternate Reality Watch, not for the Easily-Offended

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