Jury selection is scheduled to begin in Hennepin County on Monday for three high-profile trials involving Minnesota Vikings player Chris Cook, former Minneapolis Park Police officer William Jacobs and Joseph Duane "Little Joe" Gustafson, the alleged second-in-command of a violent North Side gang.
Cook will stand trial for domestic assault and third-degree assault, both felonies, following a fight with his girlfriend last fall at his Eden Prairie home. Charges say Cook, 24, assaulted and tried to strangle the 21-year-old woman during an Oct. 21 fight at his home. On Nov. 10, prosecutors filed a second charge, alleging the woman suffered a perforated eardrum and now has hearing loss. Cook remains on a paid indefinite leave of absence from the Vikings.
Cook's attorney, David Valentini, has said his client will claim self-defense. He said in a court appearance late last year that the woman had recanted the strangulation accusations. It is unclear whether she will testify at Cook's trial. Valentini did not respond to a request for comment last week. At his last court appearance, Cook, who had shorn his formerly long dreadlocks, said he did so as part of a "lifestyle change."
Two years after he was charged, Jacobs, 68, of Lutsen, Minn., will stand trial on a charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and 15 felony counts of possessing child pornography. He is accused of molesting a boy from 2007 until 2010, when the 15-year-old went to authorities. The trial was delayed by motions from Jacobs' attorneys, Joe Friedberg and Paul Engh, who objected to Judge Daniel Moreno hearing the case because he is married to a Hennepin County prosecutor. The argument went to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled that Moreno's marriage is not grounds to question his impartiality. Moreno also ruled in January that prosecutors may present testimony from three boys who alleged that Jacobs molested them. Prosecutors initially asked to admit evidence from between 1962 and 1980, in which 17 boys alleged that Jacobs molested them.
Following the charges, prosecutors submitted accounts of alleged incidents of abuse with boys whom Jacobs knew when he was a teacher, camp counselor or coach at YMCA Camp Warren in Eveleth, and at Blake and Breck schools in the Twin Cities. The alleged incidents occurred outside the statute of limitations, meaning it's too late to charge Jacobs. Prosecutors say the claims, known as Spreigl evidence, would reveal Jacobs' common scheme or plan to molest boys. Defense attorneys claimed the accusations were not relevant and would unfairly prejudice a jury. Moreno agreed to allow evidence in three of the incidents where the alleged abuse and relationships with the victims are similar to the current case. More than three incidents, Moreno wrote, would unfairly prejudice a jury. Friedberg declined to comment Friday, citing the pending case.
Joseph Duane Gustafson
Less than a week after his father was sentenced to 15 years in prison for racketeering, Gustafson, 37, of Minneapolis, will stand trial on 14 felony charges, including racketeering, extortion, assault, robbery, kidnapping and weapons and drug trafficking in connection with the "Beat Down Posse," a north Minneapolis gang that robbed and assaulted drug dealers and others while operating a bail bond business.
He was indicted in February, along with his alleged bodyguard and right-hand man, Troy Neuberger. Neuberger has since cooperated with investigators.
On March 1, Joseph Robert "Big Joe" Gustafson was sent to prison following a conviction in January for racketeering, arson, kidnapping and assault.
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921