The attorneys for four Gophers football players accused of being involved in a rape had expressed hope that their clients might be able to return to the team someday. That possibility came to an end Wednesday.
Football coach Tim Brewster dismissed cornerback Dominic Jones, running back E.J. Jones, defensive end Alex Daniels and cornerback Keith Massey from the program for "violations of both team and University of Minnesota student-athlete code of conduct regulations." For now, the players remain on scholarship and enrolled in school, but university officials indicated that could change, too.
Said Earl Gray, Dominic Jones' attorney: "He is still going to school there and he still has his scholarship. Hopefully that will be maintained."
School officials held meetings this week to discuss the status of the four players and acted swiftly in dismissing them from the team after the criminal complaint was made public.
Jeff DeGree, who represents E.J. Jones, said he thinks the school had little choice but to dismiss his client after Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Jones remains a suspect in the case.
"When the county attorney called them suspects, we were kind of waiting for the shoe to drop [with the school]," DeGree said. "We're frustrated more with the county attorney's office than coach Brewster. We think these guys are witnesses more than suspects."
Dominic Jones was charged with third-degree felony criminal sexual conduct this week, stemming from the early April incident. According to a criminal complaint, Dominic Jones raped an 18-year-old woman who had passed out after drinking too much. The victim had a blood-alcohol content of about 0.30 percent and was unresponsive, according to the complaint.
The complaint also said Daniels made a cell phone video of the alleged rape involving Dominic Jones and that Daniels, Massey and E.J. Jones also had sex with the woman earlier that night.
Daniels, Massey and E.J. Jones have not been charged, but Freeman said they are still suspects in the case.
The rape charge against Dominic Jones and the previous arrests of the other three players has presented Brewster with his first major challenge since succeeding Glen Mason as coach in January. In a statement Brewster said his team is "establishing a culture of integrity."It is an honor and a privilege to wear the uniform of the University of Minnesota and we have exceedingly high expectations for each of our student-athletes," Brewster said.
Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said he supports Brewster's decision.
"I am in full support of the decision of coach Brewster and I appreciate how he has handled this very difficult situation," Maturi said. "While this issue is deeply disappointing, the athletics department is sending a clear and unmistakable message that it will never compromise its code of conduct."
DeGree said his client is unsure of his next move, but he said E.J. Jones indicated he hopes to remain in school. Michael Colich, Daniels' attorney, said it's too early to speculate about his client.