IOWA CITY, Iowa — A former University of Iowa football player who faced decades in prison over a sexual assault case got his future back Thursday, when a jury convicted him on the least serious charge possible: misdemeanor assault.
Cedric Everson's attorney acknowledged Everson had sex with a female athlete in a vacant dorm room but claimed it was consensual, while the woman said she had passed out and didn't even know it happened until weeks later. The case has haunted both former students and the university for years.
For Everson, the verdict means the 21-year-old faces no more than 30 days in jail when he is sentenced Feb. 25. He won't have to register as a sex offender. He'll be able to return to Atlanta to his new wife and 1-year-old daughter. And the former defensive back said he hopes to resume his college football career as soon as next fall at a school neither he nor his attorney identified.
"Cedric has been offered some outstanding academic and athletic opportunities for the coming year and this will open the door to those opportunities," attorney Leon Spies said. "I also know he has grown tremendously as an individual, as a student, and of course as a family man. He's now married with a child. He's able to face and greet those opportunities and challenges."
Everson said and the verdict was a relief, and he was looking forward to leaving Iowa City and being reunited with his wife and child.
Prosecutors contended during the weeklong trial that Everson raped the woman in October 2007 while she was passed out after one his teammates, Abe Satterfield, sexually assaulted her first. His defense lawyer argued the woman had consensual sex with both men.
Satterfield pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, nonsexual assault charge last year but testified last week that the woman not only consented to sex but was the aggressor. He said Everson tapped him on the shoulder in the middle of the night and he got out of bed, but he didn't know what happened later between Everson and the woman because he fell asleep.
The woman testified she ended up in the room with Satterfield after a night of drinking, and he held her down and had intercourse even though she asked him to stop. She said she woke up the next morning naked and covered in blood and didn't find out Everson has been involved for weeks. She said she felt "devastated, violated" when she learned that.
Prosecutors said Everson bragged to others that he and Satterfield had sex with the same woman. Prosecutor Anne Lahey said Everson snuck in the room, traded places with Satterfield, had intercourse with the woman while she was helpless and left. She suggested Everson and Satterfield, teammates and roommates, coordinated the assault.
But Judge Paul Miller ruled Tuesday there was no evidence Satterfield had "aided and abetted" Everson, an element required under Iowa's gang rape law. Miller threw out a second-degree sexual abuse charge that carried up to 25 years in prison, leaving jurors to decide whether Everson was guilty of third-degree sexual abuse or two lesser offenses.
Spies attacked the woman's credibility throughout the trial. He painted her as an immature and inexperienced drinker who dangerously mixed alcohol and prescription drugs. He said her time at Iowa wasn't turning out as planned because after devoting her childhood to athletics, she was struggling with sickness and injuries and went out drinking to escape.
While Lahey urged jurors not to write off the encounter as a "youthful mistake,"
Spies said all involved acted poorly and blamed the case on a "toxic combination of alcohol, prescription drugs, bad judgment, immaturity and hormones."
"The jury looked at the whole picture and the complexity of human emotion and lack of experience of some young people," he told reporters later. "Nobody is a winner in this case, but at least somebody gets to go home."
Everson's mother, mother-in-law, aunt and sister reacted with joy to the verdict. Everson's mother, Rosalyn Everson, said she was "so relieved" the case was finally over. She said she agreed with jurors' decision to find him guilty of assault.
"I'm a woman myself, so I understand," she said.
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, who testified at the trial, suspended Everson and Satterfield from the team days after the assault, and they later transferred to other schools.