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Second man sentenced in Hibbing sex assault

A former Hibbing Community College football player was found guilty Wednesday of being involved in the gang rape of an 18-year-old Iron Range woman, but he continues to proclaim his innocence, the region's chief public defender said.

Daily Whitten
Daily Whitten
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A former Hibbing Community College football player was found guilty Wednesday of being involved in the gang rape of an 18-year-old Iron Range woman, but he continues to proclaim his innocence, the region's chief public defender said.

Daily Whitten, 22, of Darlington, S.C., entered an Alford plea in St. Louis County District Court in Hibbing to first-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with the October 2006 incident in a Hibbing Community College dorm room.

In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence, but admits that sufficient evidence exists that would allow the prosecution to convince a judge or jury of the defendant's guilt.

Under terms of a plea agreement reached with the St. Louis County Attorney's Office, Whitten received a stay of adjudication and was placed on four years probation after being pronounced guilty by Judge Mark Starr.

The stay of adjudication means that the conviction will never be entered on Whitten's record, as long as he complies with court-ordered sanctions. He also will not have to register as a sex offender. He was sentenced to the 76 days in jail that he already served, ordered to have no contact with the victim, possess no firearms or dangerous weapons, consume no alcohol or nonprescription drugs and to submit to random testing and searches by a probation department.

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Whitten's former teammate, Andrew Williams, 23, of Milwaukee received the same stay of adjudication when he entered an Alford plea in January to second-degree criminal sexual conduct for his role in the incident.

"Both of these guys deny they did anything illegal," said Northeastern Minnesota Chief Public Defender Fred Friedman. "They took the plea offers because of the benefit of the bargain, the benefit of no further jail, no sexual offender registration and no risk of a trial far away from their homes."

"In my view, the cases are weak," Friedman said. "The science points towards innocence and away from guilt. These kids are from outside the area and are afraid to go to trial."

The cases against the four defendants have been racially charged because all four are black and the victim is white. At a hearing in December 2008, Friedman's office attempted to move the trial from the Iron Range, arguing that Williams couldn't get a fair trial in Hibbing because the community lacked racial diversity. Starr denied the motion.

St. Louis County Attorney Melanie Ford released a prepared statement Wednesday saying that the victim and investigators from the Hibbing Police Department were in agreement with the terms of Whitten's sentence. Because the cases against two other defendants are still pending, Ford said her office had no further comment at this time.

Hibbing Community College officials disbanded the school's football program three months after the charges were brought, citing poor academic performance by many of the players.

While facing charges, Whitten played cornerback for the Clarion University football team in Clarion, Pa., last fall and was named to the NCAA Division II All-Northeast Region Team.

Cases are pending against two of Whitten's former Hibbing football teammates. Talon Deante Jackson and Terrance Dominique Laverity, both 23 of Miami, Fla., are charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Related Topics: CRIMEHIBBINGIRON RANGE
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