TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State running back Dalvin Cook was found not guilty on Monday of punching a woman in the face outside a bar in June after she engaged in a shouting match with him and his teammates. The college immediately lifted his suspension following the verdict.
It took the seven-member jury only about 20 minutes to deliver its decision after a one-day trial that included the testimony of the alleged victim, one of her friends and several of Cook's teammates. Cook had been charged with misdemeanor battery.
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"I'm just thankful and blessed that the truth came out," said Cook, who had been indefinitely suspended after being charged in the June 23 incident. "It's time to go to work -- back to the field. I've been working, but now it's time to get at it."
The prosecutor, Sarah Dugan, said she was disappointed in the verdict. The alleged victim, Madison Geohegan, quickly left the courtroom before she could be asked for comment.
Cook's attorneys had pushed for the trial to start before Florida State's season begins Sept. 5 against Texas State. They only called one witness, a graduate student who testified that he watched a group of players argue with Geohegan and her friend, but that none of the players hit her.
Three teammates gave similar testimony, saying that Cook tried to calm the situation as Geohagen and his teammates shouted at each other. Even Geohegan testified that Cook at first was level-headed and tried to stop the fight, telling everyone to "chill out."
But she testified that he became angry when she pushed Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph and when she told the group she wasn't impressed that they were players. She told them she was dating Auburn defensive back T.J. Davis.
Geohegan told the jury that Cook shouted, "We can buy you in two years! Google me!"
"I said, 'Everyone's on Google,'" Geohegan testified. She said that is when Cook punched her. She said a group of players held him back while he kept flailing at her. Her friend, Keara Lubeskie, testified that Cook also hit her in the side as he was trying to punch Geohegan again.
After the trial, Cook said that was not true.
"I know I didn't commit no crime or do no wrong," he said. "I know what I was doing that night, and I was making peace."
Cook's attorney, Joey McCall, told the jury in closing arguments that the evidence and testimony "just didn't add up."
He said if a 215-pound athlete punched Geohegan, she would have suffered more than a cut lip. He noted that she didn't have any bruising or swelling and it was just a small portion of her lip that was cut.
"That could be from her biting her lip. It could be because her lips were chapped," he said.
He also noted that the only two people who testified that Cook hit her was Geohegan and her friend Keara Lubeskie, who witnesses said was very drunk. Geohagen admitted to being "buzzed," but said she clearly remembers Cook punching her.
McCall tried to discredit the story by saying both girls were drunk, that Geohegan never sought medical attention and that she told police in the days after the incident that she didn't want to pursue charges. He said that she also told police at first that she had been attacked by a group of players, not just Cook.
Tallahassee police officer Matthew Smidt agreed with McCall that Geohegan's injuries weren't severe.
"To me, no, it did not look like she got hit by a fist in the face," Smidt said.
But Dugan said it didn't make sense that Geohagen would have just made the story up. She said the three teammates who said Cook never punched Geohegan gave inconsistent stories to police. And she pointed out that Cook said he remembers a girl arguing with some guys outside the downtown bar, but he denied his teammates were involved.
While Cook lawyer Ricky Patel told jurors he wanted them to hear Cook's side of the story, he persuaded Judge Augustus Aikens Jr. not to allow jurors to hear a recording of an investigator interviewing the player about the incident.
Cook, 20, led Florida State last year with 1,008 rushing yards as a freshman. He was also second on the team with eight touchdowns. Cook rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 43 yards in Florida State's 37-35 victory over Georgia Tech to win the ACC championship.
He also rushed for 103 yards in Florida State's 59-20 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl.