Four football players expelled, two suspended in relation to sex assault, UMN panel says

Four players were cleared and one had his sanction reduced in relation to the Sept. 2 sexual assault case.

Gophers defensive back Ray Buford tackles Cornhuskers tight end Cethan Carter at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016.

Meagan Lynch

Gophers defensive back Ray Buford tackles Cornhuskers tight end Cethan Carter at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016.

Six of the 10 Gophers football players accused of sexual misconduct in an alleged Sept. 2 assault have been sanctioned by a University of Minnesota panel, according to a source close to the situation.

Ray Buford, Kiante Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson have been expelled from the University. Mark Williams and Carlton Djam received one-year suspensions, according to the source.

Four players — Kobe McCrary, Antoine Winfield, Jr., Seth Green and Antonio Shenault — were cleared of wrongdoing. The University had recommended a one-year suspension for three of the players and academic probation for Shenault.

The accused players allegedly sexually assaulted and/or harassed a University game-day employee in September after a football game.

The three-person panel issued its decisions Friday after two days of hearings last week that included testimony by the accused players, the victim-survivor and a University Title IX administrator.

Of the original University Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action recommendations — which were made after it determined that it was “more likely than not” that the accused players had committed sexual assault and/or harassment — five punishments were upheld and one was reduced. Four others were dismissed.

In an emailed statement, a University spokesman declined to comment, citing student privacy laws.

“Title IX and other related proceedings are … confidential throughout the due process that the University’s policies provide: EOAA investigation; OSCAI assessment; conduct code hearings; and any appeal to the Provost by any involved party,” the statement read.

The reporting and accused parties still have the option to appeal the panel’s decision to Provost Karen Hanson.

Last week, Lee Hutton, one of the players’ attorneys, told the Minnesota Daily that players found responsible for any misconduct would appeal the decision, and take the case to federal court if necessary.

The victim-survivor alleged that some of the players took turns sexually assaulting her while others watched during a Sept. 2 party at an off-campus apartment. The players say the sex was consensual.

After the EOAA concluded its investigation, the players were suspended by the athletics department while the University adjudication process played out.

The suspensions sparked a less-than-48-hour boycott of all team activities by the football players — including the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl against Washington State — until their teammates were reinstated. It also sparked counter-protests by sexual assault victim-survivors and allies.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has twice declined to press charges in the case following an investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department.