City News

Cook will face trial on 21 criminal charges

Suspended UW-Madison junior Alec Cook is being charged with the alleged sexual assault of ten women.

Image By: Courtesy of Dane County Jail

Case continues to trial

Suspended UW-Madison student Alec Cook, of Edina, Minn., will proceed to trial on 21 criminal charges including sexual assault, felony stalking and strangulation, a county judge ruled at a Friday preliminary hearing.

The decision to bind Cook over for trial on all counts came as Dane County Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn found probable cause for felonies committed against at least six women in the case.

Bailey-Rihn also signed an order for Cook to undergo HIV and other STD testing, after finding probable cause that the women were exposed to bodily fluids during the reported assaults.

Several law enforcement officials from the Madison city and university police departments testified on reported accounts of six women—three of sexual assault, one of strangulation and two of stalking.

Madison Police Department detective Tracie Jokala said the woman, whose October 2016 report led to Cook’s arrest, was forcefully kissed and penetrated with fingers at his apartment, even after continually saying things were moving too fast and telling him to stop.

One of Cook’s attorneys, Christopher Van Wagner, included in his counter argument that this woman exchanged in Facebook messages with Cook after leaving his apartment on the night of the alleged assault. Van Wagner also cited a particular message in which the victim says she does not want a casual relationship.

“Nowhere in those messages did she say, ‘Leave me alone; you raped me,’ or anything along those lines,” Van Wagner said.

Jokala also testified on a similar account that occurred in March 2015 and was reported shortly after the arrest, where another woman said she was penetrated with fingers against her will by Cook in his apartment. Jokala said the woman told police she attempted to stop Cook’s advances, but was “physically unable.”

MPD detective Grant Humerickhouse testified that one woman reported an assault which occurred in August 2016, when she was strangled by Cook four times after telling him to stop. She reported that she could not breathe during two of those times.

Humerickhouse also gave testimony on another reported assault which occurred at Cook’s apartment in February 2016. A woman told police that the defendant penetrated her after she indicated she did not want to have intercourse and was feeling “fuzzy and tired.”

A total of ten women have reported sexual assault and other charges against Cook since he was first arrested last year. In October 2016, prosecutors filed 15 counts related to five women and in December 2016, six more charges were added as five more women came forward.

The defendant is currently staying with his parents in Minnesota after being released on $100,000 bail in December. Other bail conditions ban him from using social media and from entering Dane County, except for court dates.

Court officials have not yet set a date for trial.

Request to dismiss four charges denied

In earlier proceedings Friday morning, Bailey-Rihn denied a motion that requested the dismissal of four of 21 criminal charges in the Cook case.

Bailey-Rihn ruled that there is probable cause for all counts challenged by the defendant, including one sexual assault charge, two felony stalking charges and one disorderly conduct charge.

Defense attorneys filed motions Tuesday to dismiss the four charges before going to trial. The motion said that accounts from two women on the UW-Madison campus did not constitute stalking and cited conflicting information in the sexual assault charge.

At the motion hearing, defense attorneys pleaded against the two stalking charges, arguing that both women’s accounts failed to meet technical definitions of stalking. Van Wagner questioned whether or not alleged women suffered “serious” emotional distress, a necessary component for stalking cases, because they failed to use certain words that define serious emotional harm when reporting their cases.

Bailey-Rihn denied this argument, however, saying there is probable cause that Cook inflicted serious emotional distress on the two stalking victims, even though they may not have used technical terms such as “terrified,” “threatened,” “harassed” or “tormented” in police complaints.

The judge also ruled probable cause for the two other counts, including fourth-degree sexual assault.

UPDATE Jan. 20, 9:47 p.m.: This article was updated to include additional information.

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