MINNEAPOLIS -- Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Friday, Dec. 20, his office has decided not to charge Gophers wrestlers after a criminal sexual assault investigation that began in June.
Gable Steveson and teammate Dylan Martinez were arrested in June on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct. According to the Associated Press, they were arrested after a person reported being raped and went to a hospital for treatment on June 15.
The university on Friday lifted suspensions on the wrestlers, who had been withheld from team activities pending the results of the criminal investigation.
“We became aware today of the Hennepin County Attorney’s decision to bring no charges against two of our student-athletes,” the athletics department said in a statement. “In accordance with our Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, we have decided to lift the suspension of the student-athletes involved. They are immediately eligible to rejoin team activities.”
According to Freeman, the case was reviewed by two veteran Hennepin County prosecutors who specialize in sexual assault cases. It is unclear whether the university has launched a Title IX investigation into the incident.
Since 2017, five Minnesota student-athletes have been expelled as the result of Title IX investigations into sexual assault, four football players and one men’s basketball player.
“Sex assault crimes are always very difficult to prove to the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt required in criminal court,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said during a news conference announcing the decision. “There are often conflicting versions of what happened; this case is no exception.
“In the interest of justice, and putting it simply, there was inadequate evidence to fairly charge and prosecute this case.”
Freeman said Minnesota’s current laws regarding intoxication and a victim’s ability to give consent restricted in how they could charge the case. According to the statute, sexual assault occurs if the accused “knows or has reason to know that the complainant is mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.”
Steveson, a sophomore from Apple Valley, placed third nationally at heavyweight as a freshman. Hernandez, a junior transfer from Fresno City College, did not compete last season. Both are on the 2019-20 roster.
In the statement Friday, Freeman’s office said “the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and others have pushed the legislature to adopt something similar to Wisconsin’s intoxication law.”
Wisconsin’s sexual assault statute includes “sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a person who is under the influence of an intoxicant to a degree which renders that person incapable of giving consent if the defendant has actual knowledge that the person is incapable of giving consent.”
The Hennepin and Ramsey County Attorney’s offices have representatives on a Criminal Sexual Conduct Statutory Reform Working Group examining ways to improve Minnesota’s sexual assault statute.