MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – An Edina man accused of sexually assaulting fellow students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison appeared in court Thursday afternoon.
Alec Cook, 20, is now facing 34 counts, ranging from sexual assault to false imprisonment of five women. The charges include seven counts of second-degree sexual assault, three counts of third-degree sexual assault, two counts of strangulation, two counts of false imprisonment and one count of fourth-degree sexual assault.
The complaint prosecutors filed Thursday accuses Cook of assaults dating back to March 2015. Prosecutors said one of the women was assaulted multiple times during a ballroom dancing class she was attending with Cook this past spring. Cook’s other accusers are: a woman he met at a party in March 2015; a woman he met in a human sexuality class in February; and a woman he met during a psychology class experiment in August.
Since his arrest last week, police said at least a dozen women have come forward claiming they are victims, too. One woman said he strangled her and kept her against her will. Another said she was drugged.
Authorities found a notebook at Cook’s apartment listing names of women and what he wanted to do to them.
Dane County Circuit Court Commissioner Brian Asmus set Cook’s bail at $200,000 cash during a brief hearing Thursday. Cook made no statement at the hearing.
Cook’s attorney said his client is innocent.
His attorneys, Jessa Nicholson and Chris Van Wagner, told reporters after the proceeding that they believe the ballroom assaults never happened, noting the complaint didn’t cite any witnesses. The rest of the encounters, they said, were consensual. Van Wagner showed reporters a page from Cook’s book with the word “Killed?” written at the top and said it’s unclear what it means.
He said Cook has been vilified on social media but the prosecution’s case is “just dust.” Women are coming forward because they’ve seen social media postings about Cook and have become frightened, he said.
“He’s been painted as the face of evil in Madison and now across the entire nation, across the glove. That’s wrong and we’re going to do everything we can to show that to the DA and, eventually if necessary, a jury,” Cook’s attorney Christopher Van Wagner said.
According to the complaint, the accuser from the Oct. 12 incident says she went to his apartment after studying with him at a campus library. She said he assaulted her for 2 ½ hours, maintaining what she described as a “death grip” on her arm or body.
Cook told police the woman never told him to stop, according to the complaint.
Another woman came forward two days after charges were filed in that case. She said she met Cook at her friend’s birthday party in March 2015. Two weeks later she visited his apartment, where he began kissing her forcefully, then sexually assaulted her.
The same day that Cook was charged with the Oct. 12 assault, two other women reported being assaulted by him.
One woman told police she was in a ballroom dance class with Cook during the spring 2016 semester. She accused him of repeatedly touching her breasts and buttocks while they were dancing despite her telling him to stop. The touching occurred 15 to 20 times over the semester, she said.
The class instructor told investigators she got an email from the woman saying she was uncomfortable with how Cook touched her. The instructor responded by speaking to the class about appropriate contact during dances. She said no other students complained about Cook.
Another woman told police that she met Cook during a human sexuality class and began dating him in January, the complaint said. She said he assaulted her at his apartment in February. She told police at one point she told Cook “OK, let’s just have sex” but she believes she said that to make herself feel as if the assault was consensual, the complaint said.
Another woman told police on Monday that she met Cook during a psychology class experiment. They had consensual sex at his apartment in August, the woman said, during which he tried to choke her. After taking a break to smoke marijuana, Cook tried to have sex with her again, this time slapping her and leaving bruises.
The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 28.
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