Defense questions depth of police investigation during rape trial for Illinois basketball player

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Illinois basketball player Terrence Shannon Jr. may be the one facing a charge of rape in connection with an incident at a Lawrence bar in September, but defense attorneys on Tuesday put the Lawrence Police Department on trial.

The woman alleging that she was raped took the stand Tuesday morning to explain the events of the evening and her response to what happened.

The incident that led to the charges took place just after midnight Sept. 9 at the Jayhawk Cafe (The Hawk), 1340 Ohio St. The woman, who was 18 at the time, had gone with a friend to the bar’s Martini Room, where she said she was groped and then digitally penetrated by a man she did not know. She later told police that she had identified the man as a basketball player after searching through team rosters online.

“I was terrified,” the woman said. “I was scared and I was shocked. I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t react. All I did was stand there in shock.”

Shannon, 23, was charged in December with rape for engaging in intercourse with a person who did not consent or who was overcome by force or fear, or, in the alternative, one count of aggravated sexual battery for touching a person over the age of 16 who did not consent under circumstances when the victim was overcome by force or fear.

Andrea Albright/Lawrence Times Douglas County Senior Assistant District Attorney Ricardo Leal and Assistant DA Samantha Foster confer during a brief break in testimony, June 11, 2024.

In her opening statement, Douglas County Assistant District Attorney Samantha Foster described the scene at The Hawk as “packed,” and then detailed how the woman, who is white, was attempting the leave the crowded bar when she was waved over by a tall, Black man wearing a mustard-colored shirt.

Surveillance video from inside the bar shown by prosecutors later in the day illustrated the chaotic scene and showed both Shannon and his accuser within feet of each other prior to the alleged incident. However, there was no video presented showing the two standing side by side as the woman described in police interviews and in court.

Foster said the woman believed she was walking over to talk, exchange phone numbers, or share Snapchat information, but instead found herself being pulled close by her assailant’s right arm and then touched without consent.

“There are no phone numbers exchanged,” Foster said. “There are no words exchanged at all. She was absolutely shocked. She didn’t know this man.”

The woman took the stand immediately after opening statements Tuesday morning and told the jury that she and a roommate had gone to The Hawk looking for friends she believed would be there.

Although she had already been to the bar and one other earlier in the evening prior to returning to the Martini Room, the woman said she had only a few sips of alcohol and nothing else throughout the evening.

She testified that she doesn’t care for crowds and was beginning to get overstimulated in the hot, loud environment of the Martini Room. Foster asked the woman why, if she doesn’t drink or like crowds, would she go to a bar like The Hawk in the first place.

“It’s the thing to do,” the woman said, choking back tears. “It’s what every college person does. I thought it would be a good time.”

Andrea Albright/Lawrence Times Defense attorney Tricia Bath questions a witness June 11, 2024 Douglas County District Court.

Much of defense attorney Tricia Bath’s cross examination focused on inconsistent statements the woman made to police and to health care professionals who participated in the investigation. Bath asked the woman to describe how she had been pulled through the crowd by the man she identified as Shannon.

In court Tuesday, the woman said the man at The Hawk had grabbed her wrist or arm to help her through the crowd. But Bath presented a transcript from the preliminary hearing to show that the woman had earlier said specifically that the man had not pulled on her wrists because she was carrying a drink in one hand and her phone in the other.

Bath also brought up differences in how the woman characterized the amount of alcohol she had consumed. During a police interview and in court, the woman said she had only a few sips of a drink. However, a report generated after the woman submitted to a sexual assault nurse examiner — or SANE — screening at Lawrence Memorial Hospital said the woman reported having three drinks over the course of the evening.

LMH SANE nurse Cori Green said she couldn’t recall whether a toxicology report was completed as part of the evidence-gathering examination, and she didn’t find records reflecting blood alcohol content in the SANE evidence kit submitted into evidence during the trial.

Swabs taken from the woman’s vaginal area, buttocks, and inner thigh areas showed negligible amounts of DNA from several people— amounts that could be picked up through casual contact or transfer, such as from sitting down somewhere — but none was substantial enough to create a profile.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Ricardo Leal briefly questioned Lawrence police Officer Bryan Martes Muñoz, who took the initial report on the afternoon of Sept. 9. Martes interviewed the woman and her roommate together in the lobby of the police station before proceeding with more formal, individual interviews.

Martes also testified that he accepted the woman’s identification of Shannon without questioning her further or presenting her with any kind of photo lineup.

Defense attorney Mark Sutter asked Martes why he hadn’t pressed the woman regarding how she had identified Shannon. He also asked Martes whether he’d asked for the names of the woman’s roommates or even the friend she had gone out with that night whom he had spoken to.

“I corrected by calling and asking,” Martes said. “I called and collected her information because I forgot at that time.”

Lawrence Police Detective Joshua Leitner was the final witness to take the stand on Tuesday. Leal asked him about his responsibilities as lead detective on the case, and then asked him about evidence Leitner collected from the scene of the incident.

Detective Joshua Leitner

“I responded to The Hawk, and I collected some surveillance video,” Leitner said. “I contacted the manager and downloaded video footage from three or four cameras.”

Leitner said that while the bar does have 13-14 additional cameras throughout the facility, he only sought surveillance from the area near where the alleged crime took place. He also said multiple cameras were reportedly out of operation at the time.

Approximately 30 minutes of video was played in court Tuesday. A 25-minute video timestamped 12:23 a.m. Sept. 9 shows the woman and her roommate slowly making their way through the Martini Room as a crowd of people stands shoulder to shoulder near the bar.

During the video, Leitner identified Hunter Dickinson, Kevin McCullar, and Elmarko Jackson among the crowd. At one point a man’s hand and part of his arm can be seen around McCullar’s neck. Prosecutors submitted into evidence a photograph from former KU basketball player Arterio Morris’ Facebook page showing him with a tattooed left hand and watch on the same wrist that appear to match the hand and arm seen around McCullar’s neck in the video.

Morris was accused of raping a woman in his McCarthy Hall room in summer 2023. Those charges were later dropped by the DA’s office for insufficient evidence, but they revealed another accusation against Morris that was remarkably similar to the allegations currently being made against Shannon.  

In that case, which was investigated by the KU Police Department with some assistance from the LPD, Morris allegedly rubbed the crotch of an 18-year-old woman in the Martini Room of the The Hawk less than two weeks before the incident alleged by the woman in Shannon’s case.

No charges were filed against Morris in connection with the alleged incident at The Hawk. He was released from KU’s basketball program after being charged in the case that was later dropped. 

The woman testified that a KU football player and friend bought her a vodka and Red Bull before she and her friend made their way through the Martini Room crowd on Sept. 9. She reported only recognizing McCullar among the KU basketball players in the Martini Room that night, but as she and her friend made their way to the exit, a tall man she didn’t know motioned for her to come over to him.

Andrea Albright/Lawrence Times Terrence Shannon Jr. and defense attorney Mark Sutter listen to testimony during court proceedings June 11, 2024 in Douglas County District Court.

Although the man was only a few feet away, she told police it took her nearly 30 seconds to make her way to him. She said that as she got near, the man helped pull her the rest of the way to him, then touched her buttocks and wrapped his right arm around her hips to pull her to his side. The two said nothing and were not facing each other during the nonconsensual touching.

On cross examination, Sutter also questioned Leitner about the woman’s assertion that although she was out with friends between approximately 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., she only had a few sips of one drink. Sutter asked Leitner if he had checked videos at bars the woman had visited earlier, pulled receipts to see what, if anything, she had been drinking.

Sutter also asked Leitner why the only photographs that had been submitted into evidence were taken by prosecutors and defense investigators. The only graphic evidence generated by Leitner was a hand-drawn diagram not made to scale.

Leitner said he had simply taken the woman’s word on whether she had been drinking the night before. He said the reason he hadn’t taken photos or measurements of the Martini Room was because he was already familiar with the space.

“I’ve been in the Martini Room probably 50 times in my career,” Leitner said. “I’m very familiar with it.”

Sutter asked Leitner about an incorrect date in his report, as well as a reference to McCullar where his name is spelled “McCollum.” His most pointed questions came in regard to Leitner’s limited investigation into witnesses who might have had additional information.

Sutter asked if Leitner questioned any bartenders or security staff at the bar, any friends or roommates of the accuser who were at her apartment when she arrived home on the night of the incident, or whether he had contacted either Shannon or Morris to ask for their memories of the night in question.

“Is that because none of them actually walked into your office to talk to you?” Sutter asked. “It seems like if it’s not falling on your lap, detective, you’re not making any effort to look. Did it occur to you that you might have a serial sex offender on the loose?”

Leitner said he had not pushed further because he believed the woman was sincere and certain in her identification of Shannon.

“And you were satisfied with that?” Sutter asked.

“Yes,” Leitner said.

Testimony is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The state said it expects to call two additional witnesses. Defense attorneys said they might potentially call eight people to testify.

Shannon was arrested in December but remains out of custody after posting a $50,000 surety bond.

All arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless they are convicted.

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Andrea Albright (she/her), reporter, can be reached at aalbright (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Resources for survivors

If you have experienced sexual violence or trauma, please seek the help that’s right for you. There are many options available, and you don’t have to file a police report if you don’t want to.

Get 24/7 help in Lawrence: The Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center
  • Call 785-843-8985 to reach an advocate, 24/7. (Consider saving that number in your phone in case you or someone you know ever needs it.)
  • After an assault: What are my options? Check this page for detailed information about
    • talking to an advocate,
    • going to the hospital,
    • making a police report,
    • and/or talking to a counselor or therapist.
  • On campus? Check this page for specific resources for the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Baker University, Ottawa University and more.
Resources on KU’s campus:
  • Contact the CARE (Campus Assistance, Resource, and Education) Coordinator: Students can make an appointment by email, care@ku.edu, or by calling 785-864-9255. It’s free, confidential and voluntary to talk with the CARE Coordinator. All genders welcome. Read more here.
  • Find more KU campus resources at this link. Specific information about sexual assault exams can be found here.
  • Direct message KU CARE Sisters on Instagram. You don’t need to be affiliated with Greek Life to reach out and/or receive assistance. (Note: CARE Sisters provide peer support and education, but this is not a 24/7 service like others listed here.)
Domestic violence situations: The Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Reach the Willow for help 24/7 at 785-843-3333.
  • Find more resources on the Willow’s website at this link.
More resources
  • StrongHearts Native Helpline: Call 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) for 24/7 safe, confidential and anonymous domestic and sexual violence support for Native Americans and Alaska Natives that is culturally appropriate.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.

Related coverage:

Andrea Albright/Lawrence Times

KBI says DNA in rape case against Illinois basketball player was inconclusive; defense expert says it excludes defendant

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The jury trial of a University of Illinois basketball player accused of raping a woman in a Lawrence bar brought testimony from two of KU’s star players today, along with an analysis of the state’s physical evidence — or lack thereof — in the case.

Defense questions depth of police investigation during rape trial for Illinois basketball player

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Illinois basketball player Terrence Shannon Jr. may be the one facing a charge of rape in connection with an incident at a Lawrence bar in September, but defense attorneys on Tuesday put the Lawrence Police Department on trial.

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