Former University of Wisconsin student sentenced to 3 years for sexual assaults, choking, stalking
A judge on Thursday sentenced a former University of Wisconsin-Madison student to three years in prison for sexually assaulting three female students and choking or stalking two others.
Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke also sentenced Alec Cook, 22, of Minnesota to eight years of extended supervision once he’s released from prison. Cook pleaded guilty to the charges in February.
Prosecutors were seeking 19 years behind bars, while defense attorneys sought probation with the possibility of jail time.
Ehlke said he had to give Cook credit for having no criminal record, no bail violations and sparing the victims a trial. The judge said he hoped that the end of criminal proceedings against Cook would “give closure” to the victims, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
“What I want them to know is I listened to those voices very carefully,” Ehlke said. “I want them to know that it’s OK if they didn’t agree with me on some of the motions that have been referred to ... what I do want them to know is I tried my level best in this case and every case that I have before me to be fair to everyone.”
In court, Cook tearfully apologized to the women, telling them that what happened was not their fault.
“I’m sorry. I was wrong,” Cook said. “You told the truth and everyone should believe you. This is my fault. You didn’t deserve this. And neither did your families. To them, too, I’m so sorry.”
One victim said in her impact statement, “Part of me died in order to survive that night with him and that part of me will never grow back,” WKOW-TV reported.
“Please, continue to be kind,” the judge said to victims in sentencing, “and positive, and don’t let him take that from you.”
Cook, a former UW-Madison business student, was initially charged with more than 20 crimes against nearly a dozen women, including misdemeanor disorderly conduct and felony sexual assault for incidents between September 2014 and October 2016.
He pleaded guilty in February to three counts of third-degree sexual assault. He also pleaded guilty to choking and stalking charges. After reaching the plea deal, the remaining charges were dismissed, but the judge was allowed to consider them in sentencing Cook.
Cook was expelled from UW-Madison in June 2017.
The state Department of Justice handled the prosecution. Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement that he was disappointed Cook got only three years and he deserved a much longer sentence.
“The Wisconsin Department of Justice is disappointed that Alec Cook did not receive the much longer sentence the prosecution team recommended, and we still believe that is what Alec Cook deserves ... we hope that the fact that Alec Cook stands convicted as a felony sex offender and is on his way to prison will give survivors faith that there are people in the criminal justice system who stand ready to fight for justice for them,” Schimel said.
Asked if the agency would appeal the sentence, DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said only defendants can challenge their sentences.
Defense attorneys for Cook criticized the prosecution for “mud-slinging” and raising the lenient sentence of ex-Stanford student Brock Turner in their sentencing memorandum, the State Journal reported.
“The reference was a clumsy attempt to bully the court,” Jessa Nicholson Goetz said at the hearing. “It’s the court’s duty not to be bullied, not to be swayed by public opinion.”
Chicago Tribune staff contributed
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