April 10: No charges filed against 3 U players

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN and BOB VON STERNBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 11, 2007 - 12:09 AM

The investigation continues into a woman's report of rape, but attorneys for two of the football players said their clients are innocent. All three have left jail.

As three University of Minnesota football players left jail Monday without being charged in connection with an 18-year-old woman's report of rape, attorneys for two of the players questioned how their clients now repair damaged reputations.

Prosecutors had until noon Monday to charge E.J. Jones, Alex Daniels and Keith Massey, release them or get court permission to continue holding them.

"All three guys are good, serious students and are dedicated to be football players," said Minneapolis attorney Jeff DeGree, who is representing Jones. "It's a terrible experience for them."

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that the investigation of the case continues, that the three players remain suspects and that their release didn't signal that police presented his office with a weak case.

Freeman said it isn't unusual for his office to ask investigators to continue working a case. University Police Chief Greg Hestness said prosecutors were very clear about what they were seeking.

"I can't talk about the specifics of this case," Freeman said. "At this time, we have insufficient facts to file charges or we would have done it."

The woman told police that she was raped late April 3 or early April 4 at the University Village Apartments on University Avenue, a campus complex where the players live.

Hestness said that the woman isn't a University Village resident and that she is not a University of Minnesota student. He wouldn't discuss details of the allegation, but the players were booked on suspicion of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Shortly after the assault, the woman went to a hospital for a sexual-assault examination, according to a police report. Early Friday, she reported the incident to police.

A hospital or clinic isn't required to report a sexual assault of an adult to police, said Sandra Weathers, administrative assistant with Ramsey County Sexual Offense Services. This allows victims to decide on their own timetable if and when they want to report an assault, she said.

At Regions Hospital in St. Paul, part of the protocol is to have a trained specialist explain the pros and cons of having an exam as quickly as possible, she said. When victims choose to have an exam, the evidence is kept at the hospital in case a police report is filed later, she said.

Players, attorneys speak

Jones, 19, and Daniels and Massey, both 20, said little when leaving Hennepin County jail, where they had been held in lieu of $100,000 bail each since Friday evening. Massey said only, "I want to thank everyone who supported us."

Daniels left separately and said, "Go Gophers." He then said that he "didn't know what happened" and that he's "just taking it one day at a time." While waiting for a cab outside the jail, he said he does not have a lawyer but plans to hire one.

The players will remain suspended from the team until the investigation is done.

Daniels, a highly rated recruit from Columbus, Ohio, was working as a starter at defensive end in spring practice after shuffling between positions the past two seasons. Gophers coaches had praised Daniels' improvement and potential as a pass rusher this spring.

Massey and Jones were backups, competing for playing time. DeGree said he wasn't surprised about Jones' release Monday.

"These are not very credible allegations. They're all good kids, great students," he said.

Jones offered a DNA sample to investigators, DeGree said. Joseph Tamburino, who is representing Massey, said he didn't know whether his client gave a DNA sample. The attorneys declined to discuss whether the players knew the woman.

"Keith Massey is innocent," Tamburino said. "I don't think there was a crime."

DeGree said Jones will try to "live his life as normally as possible, go back to school and, I think, he'll soon be back on the football team. He's very, very upset and wants to put it behind him."Ultimately, these are 19-, 20-year-old kids, and I don't know where they go to get their reputations back," DeGree said. "They're not the kind of guys a coach worries about on Friday night."

Freeman said police had enough probable cause to arrest the players. He was unable to say when the investigation will be completed, but he added that the case "isn't being handled any differently because the investigation involves university athletes."

In a statement issued Monday, University of Minnesota spokesman Daniel Wolter said the university takes allegations of sexual misconduct and violent crime very seriously. Everyone, from the central administration to the department of intercollegiate athletics, is cooperating with law enforcement, he said.

"These student-athletes are innocent until proven guilty and continue to be students of the University of Minnesota and attend classes," he said. "They have relocated to off-campus housing until the completion of the investigation."

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