Monday, June 2, 2008

After 7 1/2 month investigation, University of Iowa football players charged with sex assault

After 7.5 months, the University of Iowa obtained arrest warrants for two former University of Iowa football players accused of raping a fellow student at a dorm October 14. According to the complaint, Abe Satterfield of Erie, PA gave Cedric Evenson, 18, of Detroit access to the dorm room of the victim, and that Evenson had sexual contact with the sleeping victim.

According to the criminal complaint, "The victim was not even aware (the) defendant was having sexual intercourse with her." DNA evidence linked Evenson to the assault.

Both will be charged with second-degree sexual abuse, a Class B felony punishable by a 25-year prison term. Satterfield also will be charged with third-degree sexual abuse, a Class C felony, a possible 10-year prison term.

Evenson, arrested on a warrant charging him with 2nd degree sexual abuse, was held on $10,000 bond Friday. A no-contact order was issued on behalf of the alleged victim. Satterfield had not turned himself into Iowa authorities as of Friday, May 30. He is expected to turn himself in on June 2 for his preliminary hearing.

Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness said both players have local attorneys and plan to surrender in Iowa City. Once they are jailed, Lyness will file formal charges.

"I think they're both going to try to do that, if they can afford to," Lyness said. "If not, then they're probably going to be picked up where they are, and we'll extradite them back. But I don't think they'll fight extradition."

The woman reported the incident to Public Safety on November 7, and police obtained evidence from Hillcrest Hall on November 14. Police turned over the evidence to Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness in December.

The investigation spanned nearly two semesters and became a burden to all parties. Public scrutiny intensified toward the University of Iowa and its athletics department, local law enforcement, the football team, the accused players and the alleged victim. Lyness said the woman was harassed, and a university news release stated, "The Johnson County Attorney's Office said Tuesday that the safety and well-being of the reported victim was paramount in the decision about when to file the charges." The woman has left Iowa City, and Lyness declined to say if she will return to the University of Iowa.

Lyness defended herself after the complaints that the investigation took too long. Satterfield and Everson were removed from the team within days of the alleged incident. In December, the school announced they were transferring to other schools. Satterfield is enrolled at Indiana (Pa.) University, and Everson signed with Alcorn State (Miss.) University but does not appear on the roster.

The legal process has weighed heavily on their families as well."Like any other family would think," said Pearline Hobson, Satterfield's grandmother, when asked for her thoughts. "God is going to prevail."

Her daughter, Kim Hobson, Satterfield's mother, echoed the same sentiments.

"The joy of the Lord is my strength. Jesus is his lawyer and Jesus is his judge and God will prevail."

The athletics department and university may have received the most scrutiny since the allegations. Since April 2007, 17 different football players have been arrested, including five for felonies. The state Board of Regents asked Lyness for a report on the case, Gov. Chet Culver called for a thorough probe, and the university was sued by a local newspaper after withholding several documents after an open records request.

"Once it became a criminal investigation, we had cooperation from the University of Iowa," Lyness said. When asked if the university had problems handling the incident before it became a criminal investigation, Lyness said, "I can't really comment on that."

Lyness said she expects further discussion on how UI officials handled the woman's complaint. Additionally, she said, the entire university, beyond campus police, could benefit from implementing practices used by the Johnson County Sexual Assault Response Team. Such practices include getting advocates for victims and not interviewing victims repeatedly following an assault, she said.

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta defended his department and showed concern for the victim.

"The one thing that I continue to be confident about is that for our staff, our first concern was for the woman involved. And then we went directly through the university process and university procedure. I'm confident that everybody involved from my staff and throughout the university did their very best throughout that process.I understand that a lot of people want to know kind of what happened and what was the timeline and what was the process, but right now the rights of the alleged victim, of the accused and the people involved have to override the desire of the media and for the public for immediate access."

(Update 6-3-08) Satterfield turned himself in this morning. The charges of 2nd and 3rd degree sexual abuse were formally read. Surprisingly, the 2nd degree charge stems from the alleged facilitation of Evenson's alleged assault. The 3rd degree charges comes from Satterfield's own sexual encounter with the victim.

Authorities accuse Satterfield and an unidentified man of entering room N207 at Hillcrest Hall on Oct. 14, 2007 between midnight and 6 a.m. After the other man left the room, “the defendant (Satterfield) forced the victim to have sexual intercourse with him, even after the victim told him she did not want to do so. The defendant admitted to having sex with the victim,” according to the complaint on his third-degree charge.

He is being held on $10,000 bond and is under a no-contact order for the victim.

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