UW-Madison Police Chief Kristen Roman expressed disappointment at the three-year prison sentence given to expelled student Alec Cook for sexual assault and other convictions, saying that “justice was not best served here.”
“As a criminal justice practitioner, I am disappointed by the very system I serve when it falls short,” Roman said Thursday in an open letter to sexual assault survivors. “I feel I must go on record to convey my deep disappointment in the sentence Alec Cook received for his violent crimes.”
Cook, 22, of Edina, Minnesota, was charged initially with 23 counts stemming from incidents involving 11 women between March 2015 and October 2016. In February, he pleaded guilty to three counts of third-degree sexual assault, one count of strangulation and one count of stalking.
Cook faced a maximum sentence of 19½ years in prison, followed by 20 years of extended supervision. Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke sentenced Cook to three years in prison, followed by eight years of state supervision.
Some state and local officials have criticized the sentence, and Roman’s letter is the latest to question it.
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“I’m disappointed when blame is pointed everywhere but at the individual who actually owns the criminal behavior,” Roman said. “I’m disappointed when the resulting message our processes send to those who have, or might, bravely come forward, is this: in your pursuit for justice, the odds are very much against you.”
Roman then recalled the first time she responded to a reported sexual assault, calling it an experience that changed her forever. She urged survivors to continue to speak out, saying that she was committed to addressing the issue, and that she was not going to give up.
“I see you. I hear you. I support you,” Roman said.
Ehlke said during sentencing that a prison term is uncommon in a case of this kind for a defendant who has no prior criminal record.