Vikings suspend Cook without pay after charges filed

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 26, 2011 - 11:48 AM

The Minnesota Vikings suspended starting cornerback Chris Cook without pay Tuesday, after the top draft choice was charged earlier in the day with felony domestic assault of his girlfriend.

According to the charges filed in Hennepin County District Court, Cook, 24, tried to choke the woman during a dispute in his Eden Prairie home early Saturday.

He posted bail of $40,000 and was released Tuesday afternoon from the Hennepin County jail, where he had been held since his arrest. His first court appearance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday,

Team spokesman Jeff Anderson called the allegations against Cook "very disturbing and disappointing. At this time, he is suspended without pay from the team while we continue to gather information regarding the situation."

That would appear to suggest that Cook won't be on the field when the Vikings play Carolina on Sunday afternoon.

After he was released from jail, the second-year pro quickly turned to Twitter: "There's always two sides to a story!!" About 40 minutes later, he added, "My apologies to the fans! Vikings ownership, coaching staff, my teammates and friends and family!!"

No special treatment

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman assured the public that Cook's status as a prominent athlete is not affecting how the legal system is treating him.

"Mr. Cook will be prosecuted just like any other person committing this crime," Freeman said. "Tragically, we see far too many of these cases."

According to the criminal complaint, police were called to Cook's home shortly after 1:40 a.m. Saturday concerning a domestic assault. Police found a woman sitting on the living room floor, crying and holding the right side of her head. Her nose was bleeding.

She told officers that Cook, her boyfriend of 10 months, assaulted and tried to strangle her because she had spoken to a former boyfriend. The woman said that Cook grabbed her, swung her onto a bed and choked her.

The woman said she grabbed Cook's long hair to free herself. When she stood up, Cook struck her on the side of the head, a blow that sent her into a wall. She fled to the living room, where Cook again tried to "inhibit [her] breathing by squeezing her neck with his hand," the complaint read.

Officers noted marks on the woman's neck along with hemorrhaging in one eye that police said is consistent with strangulation. Her injuries required medical attention. Authorities have not disclosed her identity.

Cook's attorney, David Valentini, described his client Tuesday afternoon as "not happy."

"He's upset he missed the game," he said. "He's upset with the whole incident."

Asked whether Cook was remorseful about the incident, Valentini said, "Of course."

NFL penalties possible

Cook faces punishment from the NFL for violation of the league's personal conduct policy. Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of public relations, said the league is reviewing the matter with Cook but declined to discuss a timetable for a resolution.

In part, the league's personal conduct policy reads:

"It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful.

"Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."

When the time comes for the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to issue a ruling on Cook, they can consider everything from fines to suspension to a potential probationary period.

Cook is in the second year of a four-year, $5.37 million contract. He got a signing bonus of $2.3 million, and his base salary for this season is $405,000, with a $1 million roster bonus.

Saturday's arrest was his second in eight months. In March, while near his mother's home in Lynchburg, Va., Cook was accused of pulling a gun on a neighbor during an argument.

Two months later, he was found not guilty when a judge determined there was insufficient evidence to support the accusation that he brandished a firearm.

Star Tribune staff writers Dan Wiederer, Bob von Sternberg and Kevin Duchschere contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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