University of Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus was ordered to stand trial Tuesday on charges that he sexually assaulted two women in his apartment in April, following a brief preliminary hearing in Dane County Circuit Court.
But most of the two hours spent in court were to decide a defense motion to dismiss the more serious of the two charges against him — second-degree sexual assault of an intoxicated person. Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky ultimately denied the motion, finding that evidence that Cephus’ lawyers wanted her to consider created inferences about the case that conflict with the evidence that prosecutors have so far presented. Any competing inferences, she said, weigh in favor of the prosecution at this stage of the case, Karofsky said.
“Applying the law, I do not believe the complaint should be dismissed,” Karofsky said. “I do not believe you have met the requisite burden.”
Cephus was charged on Aug. 20 with second- and third-degree sexual assault involving two women who said Cephus had sex with them at his apartment on April 22 even though they were too intoxicated to consent to sex. According to a criminal complaint, one of the women told police the other was so drunk that she looked “possessed,” that her eyes were rolled back into her head and that when she lifted the woman’s arm, it flopped back down when she let it go.
Cephus told police that the sex was consensual. He has been suspended from playing and practicing with the Badgers. His roommate, Danny Davis, who according to the criminal complaint was present in the apartment, will be back with the team when it plays BYU this Saturday after serving a two-game suspension.
In court Tuesday, Cephus’ lawyers, Stephen Meyer and Kathleen Stilling, argued that the statements of the first woman, who provided the basis for the second-degree sexual assault charge involving the second woman, were unreliable because in surveillance video taken at Cephus’ apartment building following the alleged assaults, the second woman does not appear to be intoxicated and is apparently able to walk and speak normally.
Meyer argued that information from the video should be considered by Karofsky as having been withheld from the criminal complaint despite containing relevant facts that could have had an impact on the decision to file charges.
Assistant District Attorney William Brown said the video provides little additional insight into the condition of the women, and that it’s scientifically impossible to tell simply by looking at a video how intoxicated the women were.
“At a trial, this is absolutely an issue,” Brown said, but not at the probable cause stage of the case.
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There was also some wrangling about how to label the women in court filings. Prosecutors have referred to them as Victim 1 and Victim 2, but Cephus’ lawyers said that is unfairly prejudicial to Cephus. In their filings, they have referred to the women by their true initials, which Brown said comes too close to identifying them.
Brown asked that defense submissions containing the initials be sealed, but Karofsky declined to do that.
In the end, at Karofsky’s suggestion, they settled on calling the first woman “AB” and the second woman “XY” in future court filings.
After the hearing, Stilling said she and other Cephus supporters were “disappointed” by Karofsky’s rulings Tuesday.
The preliminary hearing itself was brief, consisting of testimony by Madison police Detective Julie Johnson that mirrored information in the criminal complaint. Meyer asked a number of questions that drew objections from Brown, which were sustained because they sought information the defense is not yet entitled to have.
“We certainly believe that the motion to dismiss count two should have been granted,” Stilling said. “But that being said I can agree with the state on one thing: Every fact is going to be hotly contested, and we think and believe that at the end of this case, when all the facts are known, that what we’ve said from the very beginning will be demonstrated — that all three people that were in that room that night knew exactly what they were doing.”
Cephus again said he is innocent.
“I know the truth, they know the truth and I look forward to clearing my name and fighting for who I am,” Cephus said.