Updated with charges filed Thurdsay
University of Wisconsin student Alec Cook was formally charged Thursday with 11 counts of sexual assault involving five women between March 2015 and October, 2016.
Cook, 20, was held on $200,000 bail after a court appearance by agreement between prosecutors and Cook’s lawyers, who said the student, who has been suspended, would likely remain in jail because they fear for his safety.
The case attracted nationwide publicity after an initial charge against him prompted other women to file reports with both University police and Madison police and stories emerged that he kept a notebook listing women.
Pleas will be filed at a later date. His lawyers stated that the allegations were all the result of consensual sexual activity, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
His lawyers have been deeply disturbed by what they consider “character assassination” generated by a “rapid fire news cycle combined with social media” and urged people to “wait for the facts before condemning Alec Cook.”
“Our client has essentially been slaughtered by the social media image of him,” Chris Van Wagner, one of his lawyers, told reporters Thursday. “There’s nothing to support the monster that exists in the minds of all the people of UW-Madison. “….There’s no serial stalker…there’s no serial rapist,” he said. “Everything you have seen in the media about these topics is wrong.”
Updated with affidavit
On Oct. 12, a female student went to police in Madison, Wis., and filed a complaint against a 20-year-old student by the name of Alec Cook.
She said she and Cook had originally contacted each other via Facebook and gotten together four or five times, always in public.
But then, after studying with him at a college library and having dinner, he invited her to his apartment. According to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by The Washington Post, she told Cook she was not interested in casual sex “and if they weren’t on the same page she would just go home.”
Cook told her they would not “do anything she ‘wouldn’t feel comfortable with.'”
According to the affidavit, within five minutes he started kissing her. When she tried to speak he kissed her more forcefully. “‘This is much too fast, this needs to stop,'” she told him.
“He disregarded her command,” states the affidavit and began assaulting her sexually, ultimately pinning her to the bed with his body as she “physically struggled.” He “assaulted” her for “approximately the next 2.5 hours,” she told police, “and would yank her anywhere he wanted,” said the affidavit.
At one point, as he penetrated her, “he strangled” the woman “to the point her vision began to go blurry,” and “pushed her face into a pillow,” “grabbed her” by the hair and “slapped her in the face.”
According to the affidavit, he told her “‘You must like that. I always knew you were kinky.'”
When she tried to leave, he at first refused, pulling her back with what she called “‘a death grip.”
Had it ended with that alleged incident, which Cook’s lawyer denies, it would have been bad enough.
After news got out that he had been charged with the alleged assault, the floodgates opened.
Another student came forward later in the week and said the same man had assaulted her in February, according to a Madison Police Department statement. And then another, and another.
“I saw the news story and was empowered by another girl being able to tell what happened to her, that I thought I could now finally tell,” the woman told police.
By Oct. 25, according to a police detective’s affidavit quoted by WKOW-TV, dozens of women had come forward ‘“wanting to speak about … acts related to Cook.’ ”
Dean of Students Lori Berquam issued her own statement on Oct. 21, noting that the student had been placed on emergency leave from the university “based on the severity of the allegations and the potential impact on the campus community . . .”
“This is a serious case and the university is responding,” she said.
Indeed, if true, it may be the most serious case at the University of Wisconsin, one of the nation’s most prominent and highly regarded state universities with some 43,000 students.
Collette Sampson, a Dane County prosecutor, said the man would be charged with 30 counts, including felony sexual assault, false imprisonment, and strangulation in connection with alleged sexual assaults on four women.
Now, said Sampson, police believe Cook has been sexually assaulting women since March 2015, growing progressively more aggressive.
She said that when they searched his apartment, they found a notebook documenting what she called “grooming and stalking techniques.”
— UW-Madison (@UWMadison) October 25, 2016
According to WKOW, the notebook included a series of women’s names. “‘Each entry showed how he met the female, and what he liked about them. Further entries went on to document what he wanted to do with the females,’ ” the station said, quoting a police detective’s affidavit supporting a search warrant in the case.
“ ‘Disturbingly enough there were statements of ‘kill’ and statements of ‘sexual desires.’ ”
There were at least 20 notebooks found in his apartment, said the county prosecutor, though so far only one has been inspected.
Meanwhile, Cook is being pilloried on Facebook with letters addressed to him.
“I remember feeling quietly afraid of you at that party,” said one quoted by NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin. “We never spoke or interacted, but seeing you walk back and forth, exerting your alpha male presence and mass from room to room made me stand a little closer to my boyfriend, willing you to go away.”
Another “open letter” said: “You don’t know me. And from what has just surfaced, I am very glad that I don’t know you. I wrote this because I couldn’t sleep at night after I found out what you had done.”
Cook has not been convicted of anything and he has reportedly denied the allegations. He is at the moment being held in the Dane County Jail without bail and will have a hearing Thursday.
Chris Van Wagner, one of Cook’s lawyers, said he was disturbed by what he called the “media firestorm” on social media which, he suggested, had prompted others to come forward.
“Much of what has been reported on there has been, for lack of a better expression, character assassination of my client,” Van Wagner told the State Journal, “calling him everything under the sun, calling him a ‘dangerous alpha male.’ Those things are horrible things to be accused of, but more importantly, that has prompted a lot of people to apparently go back and reexamine their relationships with him and conclude, whether accurately or not, that they were the victim of a crime.”
Cook is said to be from Edina, Minn., a 2014 Edina High School graduate, and a former member of Phi Delta Theta, from which he has now been “separated” according to Wisconsin’s student paper, the Daily Cardinal.
The news has reached Minnesota as well. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Cook played rugby in high school, and had dreams of studying at Yale and becoming an astronaut.
More from Morning Mix