Charge reduced; trial to continue

Updated: January 18, 2011, 6:58 PM ET
Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- After a judge threw out the most serious sexual abuse charge against a former University of Iowa football player Tuesday, his defense lawyer told jurors they should acquit him on all charges because the woman consented even if she doesn't remember it.

Prosecutors claim Cedric Everson sexually assaulted a female athlete who had passed out in a dorm room after she first had sex with his teammate after a night of drinking. But Everson's attorney told jurors that his client had a "passionate" and "hurried" sexual encounter with the woman while she was in a state of functional blackout and the fact that she doesn't remember doesn't mean she didn't consent.

"Amnesia does not mean helpless," defense attorney Leon Spies repeated twice.

[+] EnlargeCedric Everson
AP Photo/Brian RayDefense attorney Leon Spies, right, talks with former Iowa football player Cedric Everson, center, and members of his family after the conclusion of Everson's sexual abuse trial Tuesday at the Johnson County District Courthouse in Iowa City, Iowa.

Prosecutor Anne Lahey told jurors that the defense's version "was not reality" and the woman never consented to sex with Everson, who she said snuck in the room and committed a "stealth assault" while she slept. Lahey urged jurors not to make excuses for Everson's conduct, saying they shouldn't consider the assault a "youthful mistake" or think the end of his football career was punishment enough.

Earlier Tuesday, a judge threw out the most serious sexual assault charge against Everson, saying he found "insufficient evidence" that Everson was aided and abetted by his former teammate, Abe Satterfield, in the 2007 assault.

Prosecutors needed to show Everson received the help from Satterfield to prove second-degree sexual abuse under an Iowa law meant to cover group or gang rape. However, Judge Paul Miller said he found enough evidence that Everson may have sexually assaulted the woman alone, and he instructed jurors to decide his guilt on third-degree sexual abuse, assault with intent to commit sex abuse and assault charges.

Miller's ruling was a victory for the 21-year-old Everson, who now faces a maximum of 10 years in prison instead of 25 if convicted. Eight men and 4 women started deliberating Tuesday afternoon after hearing closing arguments and were expected to resume Wednesday morning.

Satterfield has already pleaded guilty to assault with intent to inflict injury and testified against Everson, but the deal may have backfired for prosecutors.

He testified last week the woman was "the aggressor" and it was her idea to have consensual sex with him. He said he got out of the bed in the middle of the night after Everson came in the room and tapped him on the shoulder. But he said he had no idea what Everson and the woman did because he fell back asleep, and he and Everson had no deal to trade places so both could have sex with her.

The woman testified last week she told Satterfield to stop but he had intercourse with her against her will. She said she woke up the next morning naked, covered in blood. She said she did not learn Everson had also assaulted her in the middle of the night until weeks later, after she reported the assault to police. By then, Everson had been bragging to teammates that he and Satterfield had sex with the same woman, although he told football Coach Kirk Ferentz and others he had nothing to do with it, according to testimony.

The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Everson did not testify or call any witnesses in his own defense.

The highly recruited defensive back from Detroit was suspended from the team mid-way through his freshman season after the assault, which has haunted the university.

Months later, the victim's mother released letters accusing athletic department officials of encouraging her daughter to resolve the matter informally rather than filing a police complaint and of being insensitive about what happened to her. Those documents had not been turned over to a Board of Regents investigator.

A subsequent independent investigation found no evidence of a cover-up by Athletic Director Gary Barta or Ferentz. The probe found Barta told the woman she could change her mind at any time and notify law enforcement, and Ferentz took the most stringent disciplinary action he could by suspending the players, who later transferred to other schools.

But the investigation found other university officials showed poor judgment, and the university's confusing policies and procedures upset the victim, who also transferred.

UI President Sally Mason fired Dean of Students Phil Jones after the investigation faulted him for failing to move the victim and players involved into separate residence halls and responding weakly when she was harassed. Mason fired UI General Counsel Marcus Mills for failing to turn over the letters and other documents before the victim's mother made them public. Jones and Mills have defended their actions and filed lawsuits alleging wrongful termination.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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