MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday that his office will once again decline to file any criminal charges in connection to the Gophers football sexual assault investigation.
Ten University of Minnesota student-athletes were suspended indefinitely earlier this month after a 22-year-old woman reported to Minneapolis police that she was raped on the early morning of Sept. 2, just after the team beat Oregon State in their season opener.
Four of the ten players — KiAnte Hardin, Ray Buford, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson — were initially suspended in September. Six more players — Carlton Djam, Seth Green, Kobe McCrary, Antonio Shenault, Mark Williams and Antoine Winfield Jr. — were later suspended on Dec. 13.
Freeman’s office first declined to press charges in October after reviewing the police investigation. The university conducted its own investigation through the University of Minnesota’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. The resulting 80-page report led to the additional suspensions.
When the university’s report was leaked to the press, Freeman’s office decided to review it because some accounts that players gave to Minneapolis police differed from their accounts to school investigators.
In his statement, Freeman said the report “shined a light on what can only be described as deplorable behavior,” but added that his office’s investigation did not yield much more than Minneapolis police’s initial investigation.
“Reviewing the full report and comparing it to the criminal investigation file shows no new significant evidence that would enable prosecutors to bring charges against any individuals that could be sustained under our much higher standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Freeman said. “As a result, our decision not to bring charges remains unchanged.”
Freeman says his office will not comment any more on the case while the students are appealing the university’s decision.
The team’s players announced two days after the mass suspension that they would boycott all football events, including the Holiday Bowl, in protest of the decision by U of M Athletic Director Mark Coyle.
“The decision was made in consultation with and has the full support of President Eric Kaler,” Coyle said in written statement. “The decision was based on facts and is reflective of the University’s values.”
The boycott led to a backlash from many U students and employees, which gathered in a rally to support victims of sexual assault in front of TCF Bank Stadium.
The team ended their boycott after just two days, saying Coyle had agreed to give the suspended players a fair hearing with a diverse review panel. The team also announced that each player would work to highlight violence against women and sexual harassment.
Head Coach Tracy Claeys, who had expressed his pride and support of his team in the boycott, became the target of an online petition to have him fired. The petition has more than 3,100 signatures as of Friday afternoon.
Despite losing those ten players, the Gophers went on to beat the Washington State Cougars in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego Tuesday night.
Student organizers and concerned citizens calling for Claeys’ resignation say they were not surprised that Freeman declined to file charges.
“Most of us know something serious happened one way or another, so it was disappointing to me as a student to not see that acknowledged,” student James Farnsworth said.
University officials released this statement Friday after Freeman’s announcement:
“We respect the County attorney’s decision. As he notes, the university’s athletic suspension decision rests upon different standards and different policies.”