Serial groping suspect charged

University Police chief Greg Hessness, middle, gives details of the suspect arrested in connection with 11 assaults during an afternoon press conference Wednesday.

Image by Chris Roberts

University Police chief Greg Hessness, middle, gives details of the suspect arrested in connection with 11 assaults during an afternoon press conference Wednesday.

The man suspected of sexually assaulting multiple women on and around campus has admitted to the crimes and has been charged with fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, according to the Star Tribune. Phillip W. Acosta was charged Hennepin County District Court on two counts of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, which are both gross misdemeanors, according to the Star Tribune. After allegedly molesting two more female students Tuesday evening, Acosta was arrested by University Police Officers Erin Schaeffer and Steven Kragt. Each of the two women involved in Tuesday nightâÄôs incidents went to the scene of the arrest to identify him University Police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said in a Wednesday press conference. Minneapolis Police sex crimes Lt. Nancy Dunlap said Acosta confessed to 10 offenses. Police believe the he is responsible for an 11th offense to which he has not yet confessed. Police also think more incidents may have occurred, but the victims have not come forward. The victims are all believed to be University students, University Police Chief Greg Hestness said. One victim said at first she did not think a lot about the incident, which occurred on Jan. 29. She received the University-wide e-mail detailing the string of assaults and after that, she reported her experience. The Daily does not name victims of sexual assualt.

To view a video of the press conference, click here.

Dunlap attributed the success of this case to the quick report of assaults by victims. Acosta was arrested on suspicion of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct. Police are waiting for the remaining victims to positively identify the man as their attacker and are also investigating the existence of the clothes he was seen wearing during the assaults. âÄúThe trauma is beyond its statutory punishment level,âÄù Hestness said. âÄúIt really is invasive, itâÄôs sexual in nature and it really undermines our female students or any womanâÄôs comfort in walking about the streets freely.âÄù Prior to the arrest, Minneapolis Police told the Daily they were looking at several suspects. Acosta was not a part of this list. He has a minor criminal history, Dunlap said, but he didnâÄôt have a history of crimes that would have linked him to these assaults. Officers Schaeffer and Kragt were working off-duty at an event at Northrop Auditorium Tuesday night when they heard about the assault of a woman near McNamara Alumni Center. The suspect was seen travelling on foot in the direction of the University Aquatic Center. Police searched the East Bank before going to the West Bank, Miner said at the press conference. The two officers saw a man matching the description near 19th Avenue South and First Street and quickly approached him before he walked farther. When the two officers called in to report the apprehension of Acosta, they were informed that there had been a second attack in front of Moos Tower. The two women attacked Tuesday night separately confirmed that they recognized him as their attacker, Miner said. In the event that the suspect is convicted, University Police will likely issue a one-year trespass notice that will exclude the perpetrator from campus. âÄúItâÄôs a big open public campus; we donâÄôt exclude anybody because of who they are but we do exclude people because of their behaviors and this would easily rise to the threshold of that,âÄù Hestness said. With the suspect off the streets, the victim who spoke with the Daily for this story said she feels much safer. âÄúI just feel a lot better about walking to class,âÄù she said. At the press conference, University and Minneapolis police said the suspect often changed the time of day he attacked. He was willing to attack in daylight, showing up mostly in the morning and afternoon. However, he conducted himself the same way in each case walking or biking up behind a woman and grabbing her genital area. Police believe the first of these assaults occurred on Dec. 9. There was about a six-week lull until more frequent attacks began again on Jan. 29. -Devin Henry and Andrew Cummins contributed to this story.