Judge won't toss charges against Wisconsin college student

January 21, 2017

MADISON A judge refused on Friday to dismiss four charges against a suspended University of Wisconsin student accused of sexually assaulting and harassing women, rejecting his attorneys' claim that some of his actions were no worse than "Happy Days" television character Arthur Fonzarelli's flirtatious antics.

Alec Cook faces a total of 21 charges that include strangulation, sexual assault, stalking and false imprisonment stemming from cases involving 10 women dating back to March 2015.

The 20-year-old Cook sat silently at the defense table as his attorneys unsuccessfully tried to get two stalking counts, a sexual assault charge and a disorderly conduct charge tossed. The Edina, Minnesota, man was ordered to stand trial and remains free on $100,000 bail.

His attorneys argued that some of the alleged assaults didn't happen and the other sexual encounters were consensual. The alleged victims include women Cook met in a ballroom dancing class, a party and in various classes.

In a motion challenging one of the stalking charges, Cook attorneys Christopher Van Wagner and Jessa Nicholson Goetz argued the allegations were overblown. They said Cook called the alleged victim beautiful, stared at her in class and put his arm around her on several occasions all actions they said wouldn't distress a reasonable person.

"So while these acts might annoy, pester or irritate, they are not the stuff of 'criminal stalking,'" the motion states. "They are more Arthur Herbert 'Fonz' Fonzarelli than felony."

State attorneys said evidence standards aren't based on Hollywood's version of a fictional 1950s Milwaukee.

Cook also asked the judge to dismiss a sexual assault charge because the alleged victim couldn't say whether he grabbed or slapped her, as well as a disorderly conduct charge for allegedly making sexual remarks in a grocery store.

The other stalking charge alleges a woman felt afraid because Cook consistently showed up at stared at her in the university library during the fall of 2016. Van Wagner said the woman kept coming to the same spot and sat down near Cook, and that Cook never spoke to her.

Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ruled that the charging complaint laid out enough detail to support the charges. She bound Cook over for trial on all 16 felonies. Defendants don't get preliminary hearings on misdemeanor counts, so those five charges also remain.

 

Associated Press