Gopher players released; rape investigation continues

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, left, and University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness discuss the investigation involving three Gopher football players accused by an 18-year old woman of raping her.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness held a news conference when the noon-time deadline, to either charge or release the three football players, arrived.

The players have been identified by the University of Minnesota as Alex Daniels, Keith Massey and E.J. Jones.

Freeman made it clear to reporters that although the three were being released, the investigation is far from over and that they remain suspects.

"We require a level of facts and investigation in order to bring a charge for anything. Obviously, there are insufficient facts to charge -- or we would have," said Freeman. "That does not mean that the investigation is over, or that these individuals will not be charged. It says only this -- we have insufficient facts at this time and we needed further investigation."

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"There are insufficient facts to charge, or we would have. That does not mean that the investigation is over."

Freeman said little about the investigation other than that it's being handled the same way as any other such inquiry would be handled, despite the three men's high-profile status as U of M football players.

According to the police report, a woman contacted police and told them the rape took place sometime between late Tuesday night and 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.

U of M Police Chief Greg Hestness said his investigators are working with direction from Hennepin County prosecutors.

"We have very clear instructions from the county attorney. Let me just say our investigators worked Friday and Saturday, and I delivered the investigation at that point to a county attorney yesterday morning," Hestness said. "They reviewed it yesterday and today, and have concluded that additional investigation is necessary -- and they've been very specific about that."

Minneapolis attorney Jeff Degree is representing E.J. Jones. Degree predicts the ongoing investigation will not lead to charges.

"E.J. and the other two guys that are alleged to have been involved here are real good students. They're real serious about playing football, and they're not the kinds of guys that are out causing problems for the coach on Friday or Saturday night," said Degree. "When you just kind of add all of these things up, I think the prosecutor in looking at it is realizing that they're probably not real credible allegations."

Keith Massey's attorney also said he doubts his client will be charged.

County Attorney Mike Freeman gave no indication how long the investigation will take. He said his office would have no further comment regarding the matter unless and until charges are filed.