City News

Alec Cook’s lawyers ask for trials outside Madison, exclusion of some evidence

Expelled UW-Madison student Alec Cook will face seven separate trials in cases involving counts of second-degree sexual assault, stalking and strangulation.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger and Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Former UW-Madison student Alec Cook’s defense lawyers believe his trials should take place outside of Madison and want evidence they say was obtained illegally to be excluded, according to court documents.

Cook, who is accused of 21 counts including second-degree sexual assault, stalking and strangulation, will take part in seven separate trials in cases involving 11 women.

Defense attorneys Chris Van Wagner and Jessa Nicholson filed motions Monday to move the trials outside Dane County and suppress some evidence in the case against Cook, reports Channel3000.

The lawyers argue that a large number of students, staff and community members have received information on Cook and the high-profile case in a sensationalized way. In order to ensure a fair trial and lower the risk of juror prejudice, they believe the trials should be moved outside the Madison area.

“We believe that if we tried to pit a jury in Dane County, we could never get 44 prospective jurors who didn’t have at least 10 people who received alerts that there was a dangerous man on the loose on campus,” Van Wagner told reporters in September.

Van Wagner said the problem is that with Madison’s reputation as a media hub of the state, many people paying attention to the news or using social media have seen Cook’s face and heard details of the reported assaults and harassment. He said it is unlikely they would be able to find people who haven’t already formed an opinion on the case.

“We’ve got a really polarized campus community and we have concerns about that,” Nicholson added.

The defense attorneys also filed a motion to suppress evidence that was allegedly obtained illegally, including notebooks and journals belonging to Cook.

Investigators initially searched Cook’s apartment with his consent, according to court documents. They were looking for materials belonging to women and biological evidence when they came across a closed notebook in a drawer. They opened it and found a list of women’s names, which they photographed.

Cook’s defense team says that since investigators took pictures of the notebook’s contents before obtaining a search warrant for it, the evidence should be suppressed, or not shown in the trials. And since its contents led to the obtainment of other journals and documents, they argue those should be excluded as well.

The first of Cook’s seven trials is set for Feb. 26. 

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