Wiederer: Cook's felony trial: What's happened, what now and what's next

  • Blog Post by:
  • March 9, 2012 - 8:14 AM

After two days of testimony in Chris Cook’s domestic assault trial, the details that have surfaced have proven eye-opening. What we’ve learned so far as the Vikings cornerback faces two felony charges (domestic assault by strangulation and assault in the third degree):

  • In the hours before Cook’s argument with his girlfriend, Chantel Baker, turned violent at his Eden Prairie home, the two had spent a chunk of their night at a strip club in downtown Minneapolis. That excursion had fueled a fire of jealousy in both Cook and his girlfriend. Baker reportedly grew resentful when Cook went to get a lap dance and took awhile to return. Cook later became angry when he discovered Baker responding to his actions by texting an old boyfriend.
  • Cook’s defense attorneys have also asserted that the 25-year-old defensive back had planned to propose to Baker at the end of the weekend. Instead, he spent two nights in a downtown jail, facing felony charges after he struck his girlfriend in the head and allegedly tried to choke her twice.
  • Baker has since altered her story of what went on that night, contending she was the aggressor in the fight that occurred at Cook’s Eden Prairie townhome and exaggerated details of the clash to authorities. Cook’s defense team continues to contend that any physical harm the second-year NFL player caused to Baker came in self-defense. Yet the prosecution has been allowed to recount Baker’s statements to police in the aftermath of the fight where she told officers – and later doctors – she had been strangled and hit in the side of the head with such force that she suffered a perforated eardrum and temporarily lost hearing.
  • On Thursday, an Eden Prairie police officer also painted the picture of a tense scene at Cook’s residence when he arrived in response to a call. Officer Matthew Schmidt said it was only after he threatened to kick the door down that Cook let him into the home. Schmidt also described a scene in which a “jacked up” Cook kept trying to follow after Baker as she was escorted out of the home for protection.
Testimony in the Cook trial will continue this morning at the Hennepin County Government Center. And the defense plans to put Cook on the witness stand at some point.
It remains to be seen how the Vikings will respond after the final verdict of the trial. After initially suspending Cook from the team following his arrest -- which occurred less than 36 hours before the Vikings’ Week 7 game with Green Bay -- the Vikings quickly reinstated the defensive back to their active roster, instead exiling him in what was the equivalent of a paid leave of absence.
Ever since, the organization has vowed to take a wait-and-see approach as the legal process has played out. If convicted, Cook could face jail time in excess of a year.
If acquitted or convicted and given a sentence that included probation in lieu of jail time, Cook would leave Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier with a major decision on where he figures into the team’s plans.
It’s also worth restating that even if Cook beats both felony charges, he may likely face discipline from the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell. The league’s personal conduct policy includes the following passage:
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.

The personal conduct policy specifically mentions matters of domestic violence and partner abuse as issues that will prompt discipline. The policy also is worded to indicate that a player in a situation like Cook’s may face clinical evaluation as ordered by the NFL with the league also potentially conducting its own investigation on the incident.

Earlier this week, the judge in Cook’s felony trial said he figured testimony and closing arguments would be wrapped up by early next week with the jury then ready for deliberation.





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