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Four accused of gang rape

HIBBING -- Three Hibbing Community College football players and a former teammate appeared in St. Louis County District Court Monday accused of taking part in the gang rape of an 18-year-old Iron Range high school student on the college campus.

Daily Whitten, 19, of Darlington, S.C., Talon Deante Jackson, 20, and Terrance Dominque Laverity, 20, both of Miami, are each charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Former teammate Andrew Jonathan Williams, 20, of Milwaukee, is charged with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The first-degree charge involves sexual penetration; the second-degree charge alleges forced sexual contact.

According to the criminal complaints:

The alleged victim said that a black man from Milwaukee who she had met previously in the college dorms asked her if she wanted to hang out and took her into a dark room, where he and several other men sexually assaulted her.

The men eventually left, she picked her clothes off the floor, drove to her boyfriend's home and told his mother what allegedly happened. The mother called a sexual assault advocate and the girl went to a hospital where she was examined.

A Hibbing police investigator showed the alleged victim a number of photographs of black males who live in Room 107 of the college dorm, where the assault took place.

The woman identified Williams and Laverity as taking part in the assault. The complaint alleges that Jackson told Williams he had sex with the woman, but denied it to Hibbing police.

Laverity first denied having sex with the woman, then told an investigator he had consensual sexual intercourse with her, the complaint alleges. Whitten claimed to have had consensual sex with the woman in another dorm room.

"I had nothing to do with the charges going on, nothing whatsoever," Jackson told 6th Judicial District Judge David Ackerson during the foursome's initial court appearances Monday. Jackson said he has a daughter that lives in Miami and he sends her money he earns from work-study at the college, that he can't afford to lose.

Laverity and Williams asked the court to be placed on supervised release because they said they didn't want to miss any school with final exams coming up. "I'm sure our coaches and everybody will make sure that we'll come back to court," Laverity told Ackerson. Williams quit the team earlier this season, the school's provost said.

Williams' father, mother and grandmother attended Monday's hearing.

"My son is a very respectable young man," Dexter Williams said outside the courtroom after the hearing. "He's a young man who has two parents in his life. He believes in God and I know God is going to take care of everything. Right now, it's something that we got to go through. There's a reason for it, but I know God is going to have the final say. I know my son is innocent."

All of the men told the court that they have no prior records. Laverity said he once had a case dismissed against him.

Ackerson set bail at $75,000 each for Whitten, Jackson and Laverity. Bail was set at $60,000 for Williams. The judge ordered supervised release studies to be conducted to determine whether the defendants can be freed pending further court hearings. He also ruled that all four students qualify to be represented by a public defender. The defendants' next court appearance is scheduled for Friday.

Hibbing Community College football coach Kurt Zuidmulder and school athletic director Anna VanTassel declined comment Monday and referred a reporter to Ken Simberg, the college's provost.

"This is a very serious matter and the college is concerned for all parties involved," Simberg said. "Counselors and staff are meeting with students to address any concerns they may have. We believe this is an isolated incident and we continue to work to ensure the safety of all our students and staff. The college does not have any new information on this matter. It's in the hands of the legal system."

Mark Stodghill writes for the Duluth News Tribune which is owned by Forum Communications Company - the parent company of this publication.