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U of M wrestlers to return to team after no sexual assault charges

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the decision not to charge was made after six months of interviews, tests and fact-finding.

MINNEAPOLIS — Two University of Minnesota wrestlers will be allowed back on the team after the Hennepin County attorney declined to press sexual assault charges.

On Friday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that there would be no charges in the alleged sexual assault last June. Freeman said the decision was made after a "thorough and complete" investigation that involved six months of interviews, tests and fact-finding. 

He told reporters that a beefed-up Minneapolis Police Sex Crimes Unit worked the case, then handed it to a pair of veteran prosecutors, who specialize in sexual assault cases. Their conclusion was that it would not make sense to move forward with prosecuting the two athletes arrested in connection with the alleged assault.  

"In the interest of justice, simply, there is inadequate evidence to fairly charge and prosecute this case," Freeman said. "Sexual assault crimes, as well as most criminal cases, must meet the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There are often conflicting versions of what happened, and this case is no exception."

The alleged incident dates back to June 15, 2019, when Minneapolis Police were notified of the alleged assault by their counterparts in St. Paul. The two wrestlers were arrested and held in jail over a weekend, but then released pending further investigation. Both athletes were suspended from team activities under the U of M's Code of Conduct provision. KARE 11 is not naming them as no charges have, or will be filed. 

A Minneapolis Police report details how the victim told investigators she left a home in St. Paul and got into a vehicle with the two wrestlers and three other men who touched her, then sexually assaulted her. She said she kept telling them she had to go home, and was able to sneak a text to her friends saying "help."

She told police they drove to a house where they sat her down on a couch and the sexual assault continued. The victim told officers that multiple men had sex with her and that she heard one of them say, "You can go next." She told police, "I couldn't stop them," according to the report. She was eventually taken back to the place where she first got into the car and dropped off. Once there, she told friends what had happened, and they urged her to call police. 

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In his news conference Friday, Freeman criticized the Minnesota sexual assault statute, saying, "Given Minnesota’s current laws regarding intoxication and the victim’s ability to give consent, we were working under some significant constraints."

He said that his office and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi's office have been pushing the Minnesota Legislature to adopt a statute similar to Wisconsin's. In Minnesota, prosecution is limited to "extreme cases where a suspect administered an intoxicant to the victim without his or her consent, or when the victim is asleep, unconscious or so impaired they cannot communicate.”

Freeman said Wisconsin's law gives prosecutors broader discretion to charge when the suspect "knew or should have known that the victim’s intoxication affects their ability to give a reasoned consent, even if the victim is conscious and communicating."

"In essence, it gives us some more flexibility to reflect what we think is reality today," Freeman said. "We have seen this in this case and others where it's much more difficult when you look at the extremely high standard in Minnesota."

At the time of the arrests, an attorney for one of the wrestlers, Christina Groshek, told KARE 11 that her client strongly denied the allegations. 

"My client has cooperated with the investigation and he's made statements to law enforcement. And he did that because he didn't think he had anything to hide," Groshek said. "My client knows that he didn't do anything like that, he hasn't done anything wrong."

The U of M Athletic Department released a statement after Freeman's announcement Friday saying, "We became aware today of the Hennepin County Attorney’s decision to bring no charges against two of our student-athletes. In accordance with our Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, we have decided to lift the suspension of the student-athletes involved. They are immediately eligible to rejoin team activities."

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