MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Hennepin County Attorney’s office says it is now reviewing a report by the University of Minnesota’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action on the conduct of some members of the Gopher football team.
The 80-page document details an alleged sexual assault in September, involving a young woman and multiple Gophers players and a college recruit.
The prosecutor’s office said in October it had insufficient evidence to charge anyone after a police investigation of the September incident. The university conducted its own investigation, which led to last week’s suspensions of 10 players and a brief boycott of football activities by the team.
Susan Gaertner, who served as Ramsey County Attorney until 2011, explains the standard of proof is higher in a criminal case than a civil investigation like the university’s.
“It is not uncommon for a decision to be made that, at this point there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove a crime. Then you become aware of additional information, so you take another look and, perhaps at that point, charge the case,” she said. “If you can’t prove it, you can’t charge it.”
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s office is reviewing the university’s report, which said — in a number of instances — that some players’ testimonies to university investigators differed from what they had told police.
“You need to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt — the highest standard in the law — that a crime was committed by this defendant,” Gaertner said.
It remains to be seen if the school’s report will have any impact on any criminal investigation, but Gaertner hopes the high-profile nature of the case does impact conversations surrounding rape.
“My hope is that all of this discussion, instead, will have everyone taking a look the culture of rape, the culture of acquaintance rape,” she said.
The Gophers will now go ahead with the Holiday Bowl Dec. 27 against Washington State in San Diego. The team had said they wouldn’t play unless the suspensions were lifted but the university denied that demand.
University officials assured the team those accused will get a fair hearing next month.