Former Iowa Hawkeye cornerback Cedric Everson was found guilty of assault yesterday, having previously been charged with second- and third-degree sexual abuse. He will face a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail at next month's sentencing. The jury verdict brought an end to the eight-day trial and, hopefully, an extremely long-lasting dark cloud over the Iowa football program.
The initial fallout of the Everson/Satterfield affair was the Kirk Ferentz era's darkest hour: Two freshmen, including a talented corner who was getting immediate playing time, were suspended under ominous rumors and then charged with the worst of crimes. What followed was nearly disastrous: Details of the crime slowly leaked as Everson and Satterfield were expelled, with stories of blood and empty dorm rooms and an athletic culture reminiscent of Nero's Rome. A letter authored by the victim's* mother to University officials -- a letter which detailed the internal investigation conducted by the University -- blew the lid off what was an incompetent investigation at best and cover-up at worst, led to an emergency meeting of the Board of Regents, and forced UI President Sally Mason to terminate two UI officials or face the ax herself. It's now ancient history, buried by Shonn Greene and Ricky Stanzi and the Orange Bowl and a whole new set of off-field problems, but the first week of August 2008 felt like the Apocalypse.
As an attorney, the state's strategy never made a whole lot of sense to me. The Johnson County Attorney's office initially charged both defendants with second degree sexual abuse. It then struck a deal with Satterfield**, reducing his charge to a misdemeanor in order to secure his testimony against Everson for the felony charge. This deal created a catch-22 for the prosecution, though: In order to prove second degree sexual assault, the state was required to prove that their star witness aided and abetted the assault. Satterfield was never going to do that, deal or not:
Satterfield's testimony "probably didn't help our case that much," Lahey said. She said his testimony included statements she expected, including that the woman was asleep when he got out of bed, but he said them "maybe not as strongly or as firmly as he had said them earlier."
That testimony, when combined with Everson's silence and the victim's testimony that she didn't remember Everson even being in the room, guaranteed that the prosecution never had enough evidence for a conviction. Deputy County Attorney Anne Lahey, who handled the trial, should have known as much when she entered that courtroom. Instead, she put Satterfield on the stand, and he crushed her case into tiny little pieces. Everson's attorney, Leon Spies, had little more to do than to ask the judge for a full acquittal. The top-line charge was thrown out after Spies' motion; had Lahey agreed to drop the issue before trial -- rather than tell the jury in opening argument that she would prove that count, then completely fail to deliver the goods -- the outcome might be completely different. As it is, Lahey failed to prove that Everson knew or should have known the victim was incapacitated, and we get this simple misdemeanor conviction as a result.
Satterfield is set to be sentenced today; Everson will return for sentencing in late February. Once those sentences are doled out (and what little, if any, time is served by the defendants), this sordid affair will be at its end. Everson, now married with a child, will move on to what his attorney called "excellent academic and athletic opportunities." Satterfield will go back to whatever it is he's doing now. The victim will be left to live with this result, as empty and hollow as it might seem. The Johnson County Attorney's Office will probably avoid questions, and Leon Spies will double his hourly rate (after that performance, it's deserved). In the end, the worst result is for the University of Iowa; between the victim's testimony on her alcohol-laden night with half the student athletes on campus, the evidence of an athletic dormitory turned into the Playboy Mansion, and the wink-wink culture that would allow for one football player to climb into bed with a woman by merely bringing a sentry to watch the door and tapping a sleeping teammate on the shoulder to get him out of the way, the UI might again have some explaining to do. Those explanations aren't for us; we've washed our hands of this debacle. Those are reserved for the parents of students, athletes or not, who clearly have to be taking a second look at the institution that is supposed to usher their children into adulthood. This trial did not paint a pretty picture of an institution we love, and those responsible -- not for the act, but for the culture which led to the act -- need to clean it up now.
* -- Yes, she testified in open court, and yes, she's had her name printed. It's still the internet, and we're not Deadspin, so it's not going to be printed either in this post or the comments. Anyone who breaks this rule is banned.
** -- The truly shocking aspect of this trial was the DNA evidence, which proved Everson had intercourse with the victim but linked only Satterfield and the victim with the blood stains. Combined with the victim's aforementioned lack of memory, and her case against Satterfield was far, far stronger than that against Everson. It's not my area of expertise, but this prosecution was bungled from the start.