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U student drops restraining orders against Gopher football players

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Updated 4:49 p.m. | Posted 3:54 p.m.

A woman who's part of the on-field activities during University of Minnesota football games took the stand in Minneapolis Wednesday to recount a night of drinking and celebrating that she says ended with a horrifying series of "multiple sexual assaults."

Still, she agreed to drop restraining orders against five Gopher football players that she named as having taken part in the incident. Authorities declined to press criminal charges against them after an investigation following the Sept. 2 incident.

The young woman identified herself in court. MPR News is not naming her and typically does not name alleged victims of rape and sexual abuse. She said she sought the restraining order because she feared being around the players. It initially barred them from playing in their home stadium.

"I don't think I should have to go through a traumatic experience every time I see them," she told the court. 

The settlement announced Wednesday afternoon requires them to stay at least 20 feet from her. The five players, Ray Buford, KiAnte Hardin, Tamarion Johnson, Dior Johnson and Carlton Djam, are expected to be legally eligible to play when the Gophers face Purdue on Saturday. 

An attorney for the university told Hennepin County District Court Judge Mel Dickstein that an internal investigation regarding the student code of conduct is still pending.

The woman made a report of the incident to police shortly after the incident, and the players were later suspended from the team, but have since been reinstated.

Dickstein held a scheduled hearing on the restraining order Wednesday, court action that had the players and the woman facing each other across the room.

The woman recounted going to an apartment building near the stadium after a football team win over Oregon State. She described a sexual encounter with player Carlton Djam in his room, but said she wasn't a willing participant. "I felt very overpowered and fearful," she testified.

She then described a series of successive assaults by men in Djam's apartment, but conceded she didn't remember all the details clearly, possibly including the number of young men involved.

But she also conceded, when asked by Lee Hutton, the attorney for the players, that she'd later told police investigators that the sex with Djam was consensual — a potential explanation for why the case didn't result in criminal charges.

"Yes, I did say that," the woman testified. "I do not believe it was true." She describes being "frozen with fear" as the assaults continued.

Hutton's cross examination focused on whether the sexual encounters were consensual or involved any use of force. 

He also made reference to Instagram messages passing between the woman and the players, to her drinking before she went to Djam's apartment, as well as the woman's opportunities to leave the apartment. 

Hutton's questions also touched on some other sensitive details, including a discussion of whether at least one of the encounters was videotaped and shared via a phone app or other means.

The emotional cross-examination was interrupted by a lunch break, and then by talks between the two parties.

A series of closed-door meetings led to the announcement of a settlement. Dickstein said the woman agreed to have the restraining order dismissed, and the players agreed to have no contact with her at the U, either directly or indirectly.

The agreement also stipulated a "full and complete release of all civil claims against one another," as Dickstein described it in court. He also said the U agreed to tell the University of Minnesota police about the agreement and take "all reasonable steps" to enforce the order.

"I'm not worried at all," players' attorney Lee Hutton said when asked after the hearing about an internal U investigation. "The goal for all parties was to put this chapter behind them, and we did, successfully."

The woman made a brief statement after the hearing. Amy Isenor, her attorney, said that the woman was "relieved it was over. She never wanted it to be punishment for anybody. She just wanted to feel safe, and this agreement is about making her feel safe."