Dalvin Cook found not guilty in battery case; FSU lifts suspension

ByJared Shanker ESPN logo
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
ESPN

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- On Monday,Florida State running back Dalvin Cookwas found not guilty of misdemeanor battery, after a woman accused him of punching her in the face in June.

A Leon County jury acquitted Cook on the misdemeanor count, which he was charged with July 10. The 21-year-old woman alleged Cook, a 19-year-old Miami native, punched her in the face several times, following a June argument outside of a bar with a handful of Florida State football players. She alleged Cook initially tried to pacify the situation before he grew angry and punched her at least three times.

"I'm just thankful and blessed the truth came out," Cook said after the verdict, with attorneys Ricky Patel and Joey McCall flanking him. "I knew what I was doing that night, and I was making peace."

Soon after the verdict, Florida State announced it has reinstated Cook, who had been suspended indefinitely, pending the results of the trial. He is eligible to return when the Seminoles practice Tuesday.

"In light of today's ruling in his misdemeanor battery case, FSU football player Dalvin Cook's indefinite suspension from the team has been lifted, and he will be eligible to practice and to compete representing the university effective immediately," the school said in a statement.

Cook remained stoic throughout the trial, leaning back in his chair with only his eyes rallying between the attorneys and witnesses.

The jury needed less than 30 minutes to announce its verdict. Cook turned to attorney Ricky Patel, who sat on his right, and promptly hugged his Miami-based representative.

Cook's mother raised her arms and screamed, "Hallelujah!" His father, laboring from a cast on his left foot and resting on crutches, pumped his arms in celebration.

"From the beginning, we said one thing: We weren't going to take any pleas. And the reason for that was, if you know Dalvin, this is completely out of character," Patel said. "It doesn't make sense.

During closing arguments, McCall repeatedly told the jury the evidence and testimony "just doesn't add up." Cook's attorneys harped on inconsistencies in the statements made by the alleged victim and her friend to police and the 911 dispatcher on the night of June 23, when the incident was alleged to have happened.

Cook's attorneys also said the alleged victim's injuries were not consistent with those of someone who had been punched multiple times by a 215-pound football player. McCall, using a visual aid, also argued in his closing statement that the state attorney's office did not meet the burden of proof.

FSU playersTravis Rudolph, Deondre Francois andDa'Vante Phillipsall testified they did not see Cook hit the alleged victim. The teammates, as well as a defense witness who said he had no prior relationship with either party, testified that thealleged victim hit Rudolph. The alleged victim and her friend, who was also there, alleged she only pushed Rudolph after he approached her and began yelling.

Prosecutor Sarah Dugan said she was disappointed in the verdict, arguing the inconsistencies in the accounts of Cook, who did not testify, and his teammateswere significant enough to put their credibility in question. Dugan said the case has only added stress for the alleged victim, and as a Tallahassee native raised in a pro-Florida State home, she had no incentive to fabricate the allegation.

Attorney Pat McDonough, who represents the alleged victim, gave a statement on behalf of his client, saying she also was disappointed with the verdict.

"This is a sad day for victims," McDonough said in the statement. "However, she sincerely appreciates the hard work of the state attorney's office and Sarah Dugan."

Cook requested an earlier trial date in hopes of potentially playing in the Sept. 5 season opener. His arraignment date had been scheduled for Sept. 2 before a Leon County judge moved the jury selection to Aug. 21 and the trial to Monday.

Former Seminoles quarterback De'Andre Johnsonwas initially suspended following an incident in which he punched a female student in the face, and the school dismissed Johnson once the state attorney's office released video of the assault. Johnson was charged with misdemeanor battery, and his attorney entered a written not-guilty plea on Johnson's behalf on July 2.

On Aug. 14, in response to the off-field issues involving Cook and Johnson, which happened on back-to-back June nights, Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox confirmed the university was instituting a mandatory social responsibilities class for student-athletes. In August, the athletic department brought in 11 guest speakers, including former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett and former NBA official and undercover FBI agent Bob Delaney. University president John Thrasher, football coach Jimbo Fisher and Wilcox promised an end to the off-field issues.

Cook, a sophomore, rushed for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns as a true freshman last season. He played a pivotal role in the Seminoles' playoff run, especially late in the season and when the Seminoles trailed. He was a dark horse 2015 Heisman Trophy candidate and arguably the Seminoles' top offensive player.

"It's time to go to work, back to the field," Cook said. "I've been working, but now it's time to get at it. It's football season."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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