Five of the 10 University of Minnesota football players suspended from the team in the fallout of a student’s sexual assault allegation now face expulsion from school, the players’ attorney, Lee Hutton, said Wednesday night.
Four other players face a one-year suspension and another could get probation stemming from the Sept. 2 incident. The school discipline comes weeks after a criminal investigation resulted in no arrests or charges.
A woman’s claim that she was assaulted in the early morning hours after the Gophers’ first game, documented through police reports and court testimony, ultimately led to an investigation by the school’s office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
Hutton said 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.
Some of the players were directly accused in the alleged sexual assault; the involvement of others is unclear. Hutton, who is representing all 10 players, said he is working on their appeals.
University President Eric Kaler wrote in a letter to donors Wednesday that football coach Tracy Claeys, with athletic director Mark Coyle’s support, decided to suspend the players from the team ahead of its Dec. 27 bowl game in San Diego.
“The need to take actions like this is incredibly disappointing. Unfortunately, these types of situations are difficult for the University because we are limited in what we can say,” Kaler wrote. “While we strive to be transparent in all that we do, the fact is that, under the law, our students have privacy rights that we value and respect.”
Hutton confirmed that all the suspensions stem from the incident in a Dinkytown apartment after the team’s season-opening victory over Oregon State. After the complaint was first reported, the Gophers suspended four players — Buford, Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson — for an unspecified violation of team rules. Those players missed three games while police investigated.
They were reinstated when the Hennepin County attorney declined to press charges. The Star Tribune initially did not specify the nature of the investigation because the players were not charged.
The university’s statement said: “Due to privacy restrictions relating to student educational data, there is nothing further the University can share.”
Reporting to police
According to police reports and the student’s testimony, the student, who is part of the gameday operations at TCF Bank Stadium, drank five to six shots of vodka on the night of Sept. 1 before heading out of her apartment with her roommates toward Dinkytown.
She then went with two football players to the Radius, an off-campus apartment building. Though she said her memory was spotty, she recalled Djam in a common area asking her to go up to his apartment. She would later testify that she had no intention of having sex.
She said she felt panicked when Djam walked her into his bedroom, but later testified that he never pushed her, prevented her from leaving or said anything threatening to her.
Asked during a court hearing why she didn’t leave, she said, “I felt scared, trapped, isolated with someone I felt had power over me.”
At some point, they began having sex. The police report said “she doesn’t have a recall about how the sex acts started.”
After Djam, others followed. She told police she saw a line of men waiting to take turns.
“I was removing myself from my mind and my body to help myself from the pain and experience going on,” she testified.
She estimated there were at least a dozen men. “I was shoving people off of me,” she testified. “They kept ignoring my pleas for help. Anything I said they laughed. They tried to cheer people on.”
About an hour and a half later, she said, she was allowed to leave. She called her sister, who told her to go to the hospital immediately, where she was given a rape exam, while her mother made a report to Minneapolis police. The next day, an officer sat down with the student, who described her version of what happened.
On Sept. 8, police investigators Eric Faulconer and Matthew Wente interviewed Djam. He acknowledged having sex with the woman, but was adamant that it was consensual. As proof, he played them three separate videos, totaling about 90 seconds, taken that morning.
During an 8-second clip, the woman “appears lucid, alert, somewhat playful and fully conscious; she does not appear to be objecting to anything at this time,” Wente wrote in his report. After viewing two additional videos, he wrote “the sexual contact appears entirely consensual.”
Police later interviewed four other players, who each said the sex was consensual.
On Sept. 30, Wente sent the investigation to the Hennepin County Attorney’s office for possible prosecution. In it, he wrote about the videos, “at no time does she indicate that she is in distress or that the contact is unwelcome or nonconsensual.”
On Oct. 3 the attorney’s office announced there would be no charges.
Afterward, the alleged victim filed a restraining order against six of the players, asking that they be made to stay away from the stadium. After a judge granted the orders, the woman dropped a petition against one of the players.
Hutton, the players’ attorney, appealed, setting up a hearing where the woman testified for several hours. The hearing eventually ended in a settlement — the restraining order would be dropped, but the players still had to stay 20 feet away from the woman and have no contact with her. The two sides also agreed that neither would be able to file a lawsuit.
“I’m glad this is over,” the student read in a statement after the hearing. “This has never been about punishing anyone, I just wanted to feel safe. Because of this resolution that we came to, now I do.”
Claeys and Coyle briefly addressed the matter separately Wednesday. Both said they were prohibited from discussing details of the university investigation.