A young woman revealed details on national television about her teenage encounters with Alec Cook, her Edina High School prom date two years ago who was charged last week with sexually assaulting five women while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The same woman later expressed sympathy for Cook, saying her words on the TV program were used out of context.
Megan Couture said in an on-camera interview with the celebrity and news magazine show “Inside Edition” that Cook had a reputation in high school for making unwanted sexual advances to her and others.
In a segment that aired Friday, the 20-year-old Couture told the syndicated show that “he definitely tried to persuade me to get in the mood to have sex with him when I didn’t really want to” and in one incident “he threw me on a pool table in his basement.”
The “Inside Edition” segment can be viewed at ietv.co/2eW1ed7.
A day later, Couture posted a lengthy “open letter” to Cook on Facebook in the hopes that he would learn of it while still in jail and to allege that the show’s staff “tore apart my interview to find quotes that made their story more interesting.”
The largely sympathetic note, shared Sunday afternoon by Couture with the Star Tribune, lamented that news coverage is “making you look like such a monster before an actual outcome of the trial.”
She wrote that the incident on the pool table occurred “mid-sex” and that recent news reports have her “questioning our sexual activities. I’m not sure if our sex was assault. … I thought it was consensual for two years, so it is not fair for me to now change that statement.”
The TV segment noted that Couture feared him, given his behavior and the difference in their size: “I mean, he’s a big person. I’m 5-2 and he’s well above 6 foot. He’s just big and powerful.”
But Couture countered in her open letter that she was responding to why a girl, and not her in particular, would be afraid to be alone in a room with Cook.
The report twice mentioned a disparaging nickname for Cook. Couture said she confirmed that name off-camera but wrote in her open letter that it was used by only one family.
“I was excited to go to prom with you!” she wrote.
“I’m truly sorry for what I said to Inside Edition,” Couture continued. “I’m sorry that I added to the unjustness of your case. If you are guilty of your crimes, I hope that you are sentenced accordingly. … I hope people stop calling you a monster. You too, are human.”
Edina police said Friday that it has had contact once with Cook, an Edina rugby player, and has fielded no other complaints about him since he became an adult (juvenile records typically are not public record).
That single contact involved his house in Edina’s Highlands neighborhood being the scene of an underage drinking party in April 2014 after a rugby game that drew 30 to 50 young people and led to numerous citations being issued.
Addressing the current allegations against him, Couture said, “What he’s doing is atrocious. It’s disturbing, and he needs to be locked up.”
In a hearing Thursday in Dane County District Court, the number of charges against the 20-year-old Cook grew from nine counts involving one woman to 15 involving four others. The criminal complaint includes 11 charges of sexual assault in cases that span from March 2015 to October 2016. Cook also was charged with false imprisonment and strangulation and suffocation. He has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed in lieu of $200,000 bail.
Cook’s attorney, Chris Van Wagner, told reporters last week that everything detailed by the prosecution “happened consensually.”
Wagner said the rapid-fire internet news cycle “erodes the presumption of innocence” and has resulted in a modern-day character assassination that is “very real and very wrong.”