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Quintez Cephus in court

Former Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Quitez Cephus, center, appears in court Monday for jury selection with his lawyers, Kathleen Stilling, left, and Stephen Meyer. 

A jury of eight women and six men will hear opening statements from lawyers Tuesday in the trial of former University of Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus, who was charged with sexual assault last year involving two women.

The jury, which includes two alternates, was picked Monday during a process that was largely uneventful, touching on the topics of race, sexual assault, drinking, the #MeToo movement and celebrity privilege. None of the 24 panelists chosen to be questioned by attorneys and Dane County Circuit Judge William Hanrahan was substituted for other potential jurors during the process, and all 14 jurors who were ultimately selected came from the original set of 24.

Cephus, 21, of Macon, Georgia, was charged with second- and third-degree sexual assault after two women, both 18, reported to police that Cephus had assaulted them on April 22, 2018, at his Spring Street apartment while they were too intoxicated to consent to sex. Cephus’ lawyers, Stephen Meyer and Kathleen Stilling, contend the women were not as intoxicated as they claim and had consented.

The trial is expected to last through Friday.

Cephus was suspended from the Badgers football team in August after initially taking a leave of absence because of impending criminal charges. Prosecutors filed charges days later.

In October, Cephus sued UW, claiming UW officials violated his constitutional rights by pursuing a student disciplinary investigation against him, which he said was unfair because he was unable to defend himself during the probe due to the ongoing criminal investigation. Cephus dropped the lawsuit in March, but at the time his lawyers said they will likely refile it after his sexual assault trial.

Cephus, who had been suspended from school, was expelled from UW during the 2019 spring semester after he was found responsible for violating the university’s non-academic misconduct code, UW spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said.

Met at the bar

Court documents state one of the women told police she was introduced to Cephus by another Badgers wide receiver, A.J. Taylor, and that she met Cephus and teammate Danny Davis at the Double U, a bar on University Avenue. The woman also brought a friend to meet Cephus.

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Davis and Taylor are on witness lists for both sides to testify at the trial.

The woman told police she remembers Cephus asking her to hang out at his apartment, and said her next memory was waking up naked in bed with Cephus and her friend. She said she saw Cephus having sex with her friend, who was unconscious. The woman told police Cephus raped her as well as her friend.

Cephus’ lawyers contend the women consented to sex.

“Every fact is going to be hotly contested,” Stilling said after Cephus’ preliminary hearing in September, “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.”

Judge intercedes

During jury selection, Stilling probed members of the panel who had indicated more strongly empathetic feelings for victims of sexual assault, trying to find whether they believed all women reporting sexual assaults should always be believed, and whether they could be impartial when considering the evidence in Cephus’ case.

She began to ask the panel whether anyone knew about the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but Hanrahan cut that short, saying it was “not germane” to the case at hand.

“There’s a lot of hot-button political issues that we’re not going to solve here today,” Hanrahan said, telling Stilling to move on.

Stilling also asked how much the potential jurors had heard about the case from media reports, but she and Assistant District Attorney William Brown, who had asked questions earlier, learned that just some on the panel remembered hearing only a little bit about the case. One man said that the little he heard would have “absolutely no bearing” on his feelings about the case if he was selected for the jury. He was not.

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