Lawyers for former UW-Madison student Alec Cook, who is to be sentenced Thursday for sexual assault and other crimes, may demand that Cook’s victims testify about their encounters with Cook in light of a prosecution sentencing memorandum that the Cook camp says embellishes and exaggerates the victims’ experiences to make Cook appear violent and dangerous.
In a sentencing memorandum filed Monday, Assistant District Attorney Allison Cogbill and state Assistant Attorney General Christopher Liegel called for a 19½-year prison sentence for Cook, 22, of Edina, Minnesota, who pleaded guilty in February to three counts of third-degree sexual assault and one count each of strangulation and stalking.
They called Cook “a dangerous man” who lacks remorse for his crimes, during which he employed “wanton and gratuitous” violence and “tortured his victims.”
But Cook’s lawyers, Chris Van Wagner and Jessa Nicholson Goetz, in their own sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday, said the facts claimed about the assaults in the state’s memorandum “are neither proven nor admitted nor provable.” Along with the memorandum, the defense filed a number of exhibits pulled from the evidence in the case that they said refute assertions made by prosecutors in their submission to Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke, who will sentence Cook on Thursday.
“The defense has been forced to show the court some of the evidence that renders those assertions inaccurate and therefore unsuitable as a basis upon which to determine a sentence for Alec Cook,” they wrote. “In fact, if the state persists in urging this court to accept its violent assault scenario and its contention that Cook committed second-degree sexual assaults, the defense will demand that the state call witnesses (the accusers themselves) to prove any facts beyond those which support what Cook admits for the five crimes of conviction.”
By pleading guilty to third-degree sexual assault, his lawyers wrote, Cook admitted to sexual intercourse without consent, not forcible rape. They called it “disingenuous” for prosecutors “to now urge the court to sentence Cook as a violent rapist — but they do.” With the plea agreement, Van Wagner and Nicholson Goetz assert, prosecutors abandoned forcible rape charges against Cook.
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“Our duty to correct the factual record by showing the court why this case settled as it did is neither ‘victim-blaming’ nor ‘shaming,’ it is the effort required ... to ensure sentencing based on accurate information, because the state chose to engage in victim-inflating and victimization-aggrandizing.”
They also argued that although the plea agreement allows Ehlke to consider all of the dismissed charges when he sentences Cook, it does not mean that Cook admits to any of those charges.
“His adamant denial of guilt on those dismissed charges notwithstanding, Cook admitted to what he did do, which was to commit the felony crimes on which this court must now sentence him,” they wrote.
Van Wagner and Nicholson Goetz did not make a sentencing recommendation in their memorandum, saying that they would make it in court on Thursday.
But in passing, they mentioned that some weeks in jail following Cook’s initial arrest “will serve as further impetus to succeed in (the) community on close probation supervision.”
In addition, they wrote, reports by a psychiatrist and a psychologist who assessed Cook show him to be “maturing and coming to an understanding of proper behaviors,” and that his ability to comply with restrictions while on bail “is a tangible sign he is not in need of close rehabilitative control, aka prison.”