Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has again declined to file criminal charges against University of Minnesota football players after reviewing a campus report that found a student’s claims of sexual assault credible.
Freeman said Friday that veteran prosecutors and victim witness advocates from his office reviewed the 80-page report from the U’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA). The extensive report, which details the alleged sexual assault by several players in a Dinkytown apartment, found that the student’s claims were valid and recommended the suspension of 10 Gophers football players, and expulsion for five of them. The players, who are appealing, deny assaulting the woman, and those directly involved say the sex was consensual.
“That report shined a light on what can only be described as deplorable behavior,” Freeman said. “And while the university’s investigation included a handful of new interviews, the information elicited was not significantly different from the information presented to this office following a thorough investigation” by Minneapolis police.
Freeman, who first declined to file charges in October, said that reviewing the EOAA report and comparing it to the police investigation shows “no new significant evidence” that would enable prosecutors to bring charges against any of the players. He pointed out that prosecutors have a higher standard of proof.
“As a result, our decision not to bring charges remains unchanged.” Freeman said.
In response, a U statement said: “We respect the county attorney’s decision. As he notes, the University’s athletic suspension decision rests upon different standards and different policies.”
Lee Hutton, an attorney for the players, did not return messages seeking comment Friday. Hutton had previously said that the EOAA recommended expulsion for Ray Buford, Carlton Djam, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson; one-year suspensions from the university for Seth Green, Kobe McCrary, Mark Williams and Antoine Winfield Jr., and probation for Antonio Shenault. The players will have their appeals heard in January.
After the suspensions, in an act of solidarity with punished teammates, Gopher football players announced a boycott of the Holiday Bowl played Tuesday in San Diego. The team ended the boycott the weekend of Dec. 16, reportedly after reviewing details of the EOAA report.
One witness interviewed by the EOAA was a football player who said that he and others were listening at the door when he recalled “from the stuff [the woman] said, it didn’t seem like she was into it. She said something and [the men present] decided it was messed up.”
Minneapolis police initially investigated after the U student accused the players of sexual assault in the bedroom of one player’s off-campus apartment. In its report, completed in about two weeks, an MPD investigator reviewed three brief cellphone videos filmed at the beginning of the incident and wrote that the “sexual contact appears entirely consensual.”
However, the Minneapolis police report was far less thorough than the EOAA report, which was made public when it was obtained and released by KSTP-TV. The report found after a four-month investigation that the alleged victim’s account was “more credible” than the players’.
The university also uncovered evidence indicating that the players “deliberately attempted to impede the university’s fact-finding efforts,” according to its report.
While the players weren’t obligated to talk to police investigators, the university had more leverage over students. They had to talk to EOAA investigators or face violating the student conduct code, which could result in anything from a warning to an expulsion.
U investigators also had a different standard — the preponderance of evidence — meaning they had to determine whether more likely than not the assault happened.
When Freeman initially declined to file charges this fall, he cited “insufficient admissible evidence” to prove a sexual assault occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. He agreed last week to review the EOAA investigation.
After Freeman’s decision, MPD spokeswoman Sgt. Catherine Michal said the department would not reopen the investigation.
Staff writer Brandon Stahl contributed to this report.