Two University of Minnesota wrestlers should hear Tuesday whether they will be charged or released from the Hennepin County jail, where they’ve been since their weekend arrests on suspicion of felony criminal sexual misconduct.
Gophers star and world-class wrestler Gable Steveson has been in jail since late Saturday along with teammate Dylan Martinez. The Minneapolis police report said the two sexually penetrated the victim with an object. No other details were given. The alleged victim’s name was redacted but the report said the person received treatment at the hospital.
A decision on whether to file charges against the men could come Tuesday. If charges are filed, Steveson, 19, and Martinez, 21, would be arraigned and bail would be set. Absent charges, they would likely be released.
Steveson’s lawyer Christa Groshek cautioned against reading too much into the police report and the claim of penetration with an object. She said the statutes are broadly written and that does not necessarily mean what a layperson would assume.
“It’s possible he won’t be charged,” she said. “Let’s not rush to judgment.”
On Sunday, after their arrests became public, the U’s Athletic Department issued a statement saying two athletes had been suspended from team activity. The U didn’t identify the athletes or their sport and said nothing more on Monday.
As enrolled athletes, the two men are subject to a university code of conduct that is more stringent than either state law or the code governing regular students. Regardless of whether criminal charges are filed, the two could face investigation by the U Athletic Department and be subject to discipline ranging from verbal warnings to dismissal.
Groshek said Steveson has continued cooperating with police. Martinez’s family members have not been reached for comment, and it is unclear whether he has retained an attorney.
The Gophers wrestling program is well established and the U is set to play host to the NCAA national championships in March 2020 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Steveson is a marquee athlete with a legitimate shot at competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Now both he and the U must grapple with a troubling allegation that could result in lengthy investigations both inside and outside the Athletic Department.
In addition to student code of conduct violations and criminal charges, the wrestlers could face an inquiry from the U’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA). That third inquiry would be triggered by a complaint from the alleged victim to the office. Similar EOAA complaints have factored into other high-profile problems with athletes who didn’t face criminal charges.
In January 2018, star basketball player Reggie Lynch was suspended after the U’s EOAA found that Lynch had violated the university code regarding sexual misconduct and sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence. He left the U, but no criminal charges were ever filed.
In late 2016, 10 Gophers football players were suspended in connection with sexual assault allegations. Ultimately, nine of the players filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming they were subject to racial and sexual discrimination in the U’s internal investigation. The lawsuit is pending.
Groshek said Sunday that her client had cooperated with police.
“He cooperated by giving a statement, and he did that because he didn’t think he had anything to hide. So the fact that he’s sitting in jail, that’s a shock to him,” she said.
The initial 911 contact came to St. Paul Police from a male caller on the 1800 block of Dayton Avenue, reporting an assault on his friend. St. Paul Police referred the call to Minneapolis where the alleged incident occurred.
The allegation is the second high-profile blow to the Gophers wrestling program in three years. In September 2016, veteran coach J Robinson was fired for his handling of an alleged drug ring among wrestlers that involved the anti-anxiety medication Xanax. Four wrestlers were suspended.
Steveson was a Minnesota wrestling star long before he came to the U. He won four straight high school wrestling championships and compiled a 212-3 record for Apple Valley. As a freshman, he scored 35 victories and two losses for the Gophers and finished third at the 2019 NCAA Championships.
Martinez has two years of eligibility remaining with the U after not wrestling last year. Before joining the Gophers, he wrestled for Fresno City College and was a two-time California Community College champion. He wrestled for Clovis (Calif.) High School and contributed to its 91 consecutive dual meet victories.