A former University of Iowa football player is accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student while she was unconscious, and after his friend had already assaulted her. But today, he was cleared of the most serious charge against him.
According to the AP, the victim reported that University of Iowa player Abe Satterfield raped her in October 2007, repeatedly ignoring her requests to stop. She also said that "she woke up the next morning naked, covered in blood." She testified that she didn't even know Satterfield's teammate Cedric Everson had also assaulted her — until he started bragging about it to the rest of the team. Satterfield pled guilty to assault with intent to inflict injury in a plea bargain, but Everson was charged with second-degree sexual abuse — until today, when a judge threw that charge out.
The reason: in order to make the second-degree charge stick, the prosecution would have had to prove that Everson was "aided or abetted by one or more persons" in the assault. And they can't show that Satterfield participated at all in Everson's alleged assault of the victim — Satterfield says he was asleep when it happened. Everson still faces charges of third-degree sexual abuse, assault with intent to commit sex abuse, and assault, but they carry a maximum of 10 years in prison instead of 25.
The AP's Ryan Foley points out that the alleged assault was a big scandal for the University, and two officials were fired over their handling of the case — General Counsel Marcus Mills for failing to release documents pertaining to the case, and Dean of Students Phil Jones for failing to move the victim and suspects to different dorms after she reported the assault (she eventually transferred schools). The University has been heavily criticized for its initial response to the assault, with an outside law firm finding "numerous and substantial flaws in not only the response of the University of Iowa to the alleged sexual assault at issue, but also in its policies, procedures and practices regarding the same." And sadly, these flaws seem distressingly common — many similar criticisms have been leveled at Notre Dame. At the same time, Iowa is at least taking some steps to remedy the situation — in addition to the firings, the State Board of Regents commissioned a review of sexual assault policies at all the state's campuses. Iowa could be a model for universities trying to fix their response to rape — but it's shameful that this response is so often broken in the first place.