The Hennepin County (Minn.) District Attorney’s Office announced today, for a second time, that it had reviewed the evidence against the group of Golden Gophers football players accused of raping a fellow student and decided there was not enough to bring a criminal case. But before going into what prosecutors said, its worth pointing out the timing of this announcement—late on a Friday, also on the last weekday before the extended New Year’s weekend, and after the Gophers played in and won the Holiday Bowl. Like the Oklahoma Sooners, the local prosecutor’s office managed to release this information at the time when as few people as possible will see it.
Currently, ten Gophers players are suspended—with five of them recommended for expulsion, their attorney has said. None of them played in the Holiday Bowl. Their teammates briefly threatened to boycott the bowl game, but changed their minds after a damning university report was published by KSTP-TV that went into much more graphic details than police or prosecutors about what happened that night in September.
That’s what led to the second review by Hennepin county prosecutors, and based on their statement it was reading the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action report. That report cited evidence that went unexamined in police reports and as well as several interviews with people who aren’t mentioned at all by Minneapolis police. That matters because those extra interviews, as the university report put it, helped their investigators decide that the student’s story was more credible than the football players. The prosecutor’s office calls them “a handful of new interviews.”
The university also relied on text messages sent around the freshmen football players that night showing them saying things like “rail hella hoes,” “if she aint tryna fck imma be pissed,” and “Damn A10, all 3 them n****s hitting rn.” The university report mentions the text messages prominently. Police had those text messages as well, but didn’t transcribe them in their reports or mention them in any analysis of the case. The police did pass their case file on to prosecutors, who don’t mention the text messages in today’s statement, instead saying (without giving any facts or examples) that what was in the report was “not significantly different from the information presented” to them by police.
This is the statement in full.
Veteran prosecutors, victim witness advocates of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and I today completed our review of the University of Minnesota’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action report on the actions of a number of Gopher football players.
That report shined a light on what can only be described as deplorable behavior. And while the university’s investigation included a handful of new interviews, the information elicited was not significantly different from the information presented to this office following a thorough investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department.
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. As a result, our decision not to bring charges remains unchanged.
Because the university’s process is continuing with appeals, we believe it would be inappropriate to comment further.
Hennepin County Attorney
The statement does not address how the university was able to get more interviews, with more details, than the police. It doesn’t say why the text messages aren’t considered significant evidence or even if authorities have more text messages than the university (which is possible because one player, Carlton Djam, let police get them directly from his phone). It doesn’t say what happened to a statement that the student said she gave to police on Sept. 14, that included much more detail about what happened that night, but goes unmentioned in the police reports given to reporters.
It is possible that the local prosecutors, who have to meet a higher standard than university investigators, truly feel they do not have enough evidence to have a winnable case. But it’s telling that they aren’t releasing a full close-out memo, which would explain in detail what they have, what they don’t have, and why they aren’t filing charges, and instead rely on thin press releases, in this case put out when almost nobody will see it. The Hennepin county attorney says, essentially, “trust us” and cites the ongoing university process as the reason he can’t say more.
Traditionally, it’s been universities that have cited student privacy as the reason to keep such investigations shrouded in secrecy. Law enforcement claiming it has to protect a student judicial process certainly is a new one.