Woman allegedly raped at U Village

by Justin Costley

and Mike Wereschagin
University freshman and Gophers football player Steven Watson was arrested and released Friday in connection with an alleged rape of an 18-year-old woman, according to Hennepin County arrest records. He has not been charged.
Pursuant to University policy, Watson, 18, has been automatically suspended from the football team pending completion of a criminal investigation, said Tom Moe, University men’s athletics director.
According to a University police report, the alleged rape occurred between 10:45 and 11:30 p.m. Thursday in Watson’s University Village apartment. It was reported to University Police at 6:15 a.m. Friday.
Watson’s apartment is located in the University-run portion of the housing complex. The other half is private housing.
Police interviewed the woman at Fairview-University Medical Center early Friday morning. Further information about the woman was not available Tuesday.
Watson was arrested at his apartment and later booked at Hennepin County Jail. He was released Friday, according to police reports.
Arresting officer Joshua Betts and Detective Marianne Scheel — the case’s lead investigator — did not return the Daily’s phone calls Tuesday.
Moe said he and Gophers football coach Glen Mason knew of Watson’s arrest. Mason, who is out of town attending Big Ten meetings, did not return the Daily’s phone messages Tuesday.
“I know the young man was arrested and I’m told the matter is still under investigation,” Moe said.
University housing officials said they are aware of the alleged incident but declined to comment because of the on-going investigation.
Ralph Rickgarn, a housing official who handles student behavior matters, said Tuesday night the University reviews each disciplinary incident on a case-by-case basis.
He said residents are not relocated or evicted before criminal charges are filed unless housing officials are concerned about the safety of other residents.
A University Village community adviser said she was told by housing officials not to talk about the alleged incident.
Neighbors who were asked about Watson’s arrest Tuesday night said they were unaware of Friday’s alleged events.
Watson’s next-door neighbor, University sophomore Jamie Soleta, said she was home the night of the alleged rape, but did not hear anything strange.
There was loud music, she said, but “that’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
Watson, a Defiance, Mo., native, was recruited to Minnesota after leading Francis Howell High School to a 29-6 combined record over his last three seasons. He was listed fifth on the Gophers preseason depth chart at drop linebacker.
Watson, an undecided major in the General College, did not respond to phone calls or visits to his apartment Tuesday.
— Staff reports contributed to this article.