Accused Univ. of Wisconsin serial rapist had been reported to campus police

Madison assault charges

MADISON, Wis. -- A University of Wisconsin-Madison student already accused of sexually assaulting a woman in his apartment after a date this month was charged Thursday with sexually assaulting four other women since early 2015.

Alec Cook, 20, of Edina, Minnesota, now faces seven counts of second-degree sexual assault, three counts of third-degree sexual assault, two counts of strangulation, two counts of false imprisonment and one count of fourth-degree sexual assault.

The campus police department reportedly had two previous contacts with Cook, including one in which a woman said he made her fear for her safety.

The complaint prosecutors filed Thursday accuses Cook of assaults dating back to March 2015. Prosecutors said one of the women was assaulted multiple times during a ballroom dancing class she was attending with Cook this past spring. The other alleged victims were a woman Cook met at a party at his apartment in March 2015; a woman he met in a human sexuality class in February; and a woman he met during a psychology class experiment in August.

Cook was charged last week with sexually assaulting a woman in his apartment the night of Oct. 12, after inviting her to come home with him after studying together in a campus library.

Media reports of those charges have driven dozens of women to report to police their encounters with Cook. Officers searching Cook’s apartment found a black book listing women he’d met and documenting his “sexual desires,” authorities said.

CBS affiliate WISC reports the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department has had two previous contacts with Cook, once in October 2014 for an underage liquor citation and again in February 2016 when a female student said Cook was making her feel uncomfortable in the college library.

She told police Cook had been looking at her and smiling at her for months. She said she confronted him and asked Cook to stop staring at her and leave her alone, but shortly afterward he followed her out of the library, “making her feel afraid for her safety,” a campus police spokesman told the station.

The student reported the incident two days later. Campus police spoke to Cook that evening and ordered him not to make contact with or follow the woman anymore, the station reports. Police said he told the officer he understood and would stop.

It wasn’t clear if the woman who reported Cook’s behavior in February was one of the people who reported Cook sexually assaulted them.

Dane County Circuit Court Commissioner Brian Asmus set Cook’s bail at $200,000 cash during a brief hearing Thursday. Cook made no statement at the hearing.

His attorneys, Jessa Nicholson and Chris Van Wagner, told reporters after the proceeding that they believe the ballroom assaults never happened, noting the complaint didn’t cite any witnesses. The rest of the encounters, they said, were consensual.

Van Wagner said Cook has been vilified on social media but the prosecution’s case is “just dust.”

“He’s been painted as the face of evil,” Van Wagner said of Cook. “That’s wrong.”

According to the complaint, the accuser from the Oct. 12 incident says she went his apartment after studying with him at a campus library. She said he assaulted her for 2 ½ hours, maintaining what she described as a “death grip” on her arm or body.

Cook told police the woman never told him to stop, the complaint said.

Another woman came forward two days after charges were filed in that case. She said she met Cook at her friend’s birthday party in March 2015. Two weeks later she visited his apartment, where he began kissing her forcefully, then sexually assaulted her.

The same day that Cook was charged with the Oct. 12 assault, two other women reported being assaulted by him.

One woman told police she was in a ballroom dance class with Cook during the spring 2016 semester. She accused him of repeatedly touching her breasts and buttocks while they were dancing despite her telling him to stop. The touching occurred 15 to 20 times over the semester, she said.

The class instructor told investigators she got an email from the woman saying she was uncomfortable with how Cook was touching her. The instructor responded by speaking to the class about appropriate contact during dances. She said no other students complained about Cook.

Another woman told police that she met Cook during a human sexuality class and began dating him in January, the complaint said. She said he assaulted her at his apartment in February. She told police at one point she told Cook “OK, let’s just have sex” but she believes she said that to make herself feel as if the assault was consensual, the complaint said.

Another woman told police on Monday that she met Cook during a psychology class experiment. They had consensual sex at his apartment in August, the woman said, during which he tried to choke her. After taking a break to smoke marijuana, Cook tried to have sex with her again, this time slapping her and leaving bruises.