Cook's phone calls from jail focused on woman

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS
  • Star Tribune
  • March 13, 2012 - 5:36 AM

His freedom and career on the line hours after his arrest, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook's main concern appeared to be his relationship with the girlfriend he was accused of assaulting, according to a series of recorded telephone calls from the Hennepin County jail played in court Monday.

Prosecutors wrapped up their case against Cook with a series of collect calls he made from the jail to his best friend and roommate, William Grishaw, and his girlfriend of 10 months, Chantel Baker. In the Oct. 22 calls, he wavered between asking whether their relationship was over and blaming her for his arrest and for having to miss an upcoming game, against the Green Bay Packers.

The two ended every conversation by professing their love for one another, but Cook also pressed Baker about her allegations that he choked her twice during their fight in his Eden Prairie town home.

"What are you talking about, strangulation?" he asked Baker.

"They asked me if you choked me and I said 'Yes, he choked me,'" Baker replied between repeated apologies to Cook. "I've never had that happen to me before and I'm sorry. But do you know what you did to me? I have a busted eardrum and can't hear out of my left ear."

Cook, 25, is standing trial for felony domestic assault and third-degree assault following the fight with Baker, a 21-year-old Virginia college student, after a night out in downtown Minneapolis. Prosecutors say Baker was choked and battered by a jealous Cook, but backtracked on her claims that she was choked out of guilt and fear that she could ruin his football career.

Cook's defense attorneys say she attacked Cook at his townhouse, then lied that he'd choked her to ensure he'd spend the night in jail. He struck her with an open hand in self-defense after she struck him in the back of the head with a high-heeled shoe.

In a recorded call from jail, Cook told Grishaw to talk to Baker about the strangulation claims.

"I feel like they forced her to say that ..." he told Grishaw. "I feel like if she said, 'Yeah, he didn't do this,' this ... would go away."

Nearly three weeks after the incident, Baker called an Eden Prairie police detective to recant her choking claims. In repeated statements to police and a private investigator, she maintained she was never coerced to change her story.

After prosecutors placed Grishaw on the stand, he returned as a key defense witness, testifying that he heard yelling from Cook's bedroom but thought nothing of it.

"Honestly, it sounded similar to other arguments in the past that had been resolved," Grishaw said.

His testimony will resume Tuesday, when Cook might take the stand in his own defense. The jury is expected to begin deliberating Wednesday.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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