Ex-Gopher Jones can't leave state

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 12, 2009 - 7:38 AM

Dominic Jones, convicted of criminal sexual conduct, isn't allowed to go to Ohio for one day for an NFL tryout.

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Dominic Jones

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Former University of Minnesota football star Dominic Jones won't be allowed to leave the state for one day to participate in NFL tryouts at Ohio State University, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Hennepin County District Judge Marilyn Rosenbaum said that she's treating the case "like any other," but defense lawyer Earl Gray called that absurd.

Jones was convicted in April of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for masturbating over a drunken 18-year-old woman, an act caught on cell-phone video. He served eight months in the workhouse and was released March 2.

Rosenbaum said Jones can't leave until he completes his sex offender assessment and begins treatment. The judge agreed with Gray that Jones had followed the requirements of the court and not faltered since he was arrested in July 2007, jailed in July and put on probation.

Gray said Jones had "proven himself all throughout this proceeding" and now wanted one "slight break" to return to Ohio, participate in the tryouts, and see his mother and his son. He initially asked that Jones be allowed to leave Thursday and return Sunday. He later asked that he be allowed to leave Thursday and return Friday.

Assistant County Attorney Marlene Senechal, who heads the violent crimes division, argued that Jones should not be allowed to go because he is an "untreated sex offender" and his chances of playing in the NFL are "unrealistic." She said, "It would be inappropriate for him to leave the state."

Gray took issue with Senechal's characterization of Jones' chances, saying he should at least be given an opportunity to try out for the NFL. "In order to be successful on probation, it would seem to me a man should be able to pursue his career," Gray said.

In denying Jones' request, Rosenbaum said perhaps he would have another chance at a tryout after he has begun sex offender treatment.

Jones' probation officer, Gary Shackelford, said sex offender assessments need to be completed and treatment started before someone is allowed to leave.

After the brief court session, Gray countered that Rosenbaum presumes Jones will need treatment before he even is assessed.

The defense lawyer also questioned why the state waited until now to assess Jones, when it could have done so while he was in the workhouse for eight months.

In an interview, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that Jones is being treated the same as anyone else. "One of the problems for Mr. Jones is his lack of contrition. The sex act perpetrated was offensive, and it substantially impacted the victim perhaps for the rest of her life," Freeman said.

Throughout the case, Rosenbaum has shown no affinity for the defense. She rarely has acknowledged or greeted Jones in court, and most of her rulings have favored the prosecution. She declined to allow into evidence at trial the fact that Jones' victim had sex with three other players that night. None of them has been charged.

Jones has appealed his case to the State Court of Appeals, which has scheduled arguments for next month.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

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