Rick Neuheisel, head coach of the University of Washington's football team, was playing golf when a cart came rolling up and someone handed...
Rick Neuheisel, head coach of the University of Washington’s football team, was playing golf when a cart came rolling up and someone handed him a phone.
The UW’s sports-information director was on the other end: One of the team’s best players had just been arrested, on suspicion of rape.
Before 7 that morning — Thursday, July 27, 2000 — Seattle police detectives, accompanied by a SWAT team, had served a search warrant at the home of Jerramy Stevens and taken him away.
Most Read Local Stories
- It's austere and uncomfortable. That's precisely the reason the 'Portland Loo' is finding a home in King County VIEW
- Former Bellevue CEO sentenced to seven years for H-1B visa fraud
- Life after deportation: A family with roots in the Seattle region starts over in Mexico VIEW
- ‘I just bear-hugged her’: Washington woman finds her missing dog after 57-day search in Montana
- 'Debating my entire lifetime': I-976 marks Seattle area's 8th vote on light rail in 24 years | Danny Westneat
The UW football team was used to run-ins with the law. It even had a system, of sorts, for dealing with them. Randy Hart, the defensive-line coach, had police contacts who would tell him when players were in trouble. Other coaches had names of attorneys players could contact.
One lawyer stood out: Mike Hunsinger, a UW alumnus and longtime fan. In time, Hunsinger would represent at least 14 members of the 2000 football team — players accused of hit-and-run, animal cruelty, punching a security guard, DUI, taking part in an attack on a fraternity, sexual assault, punching windows out of cars, domestic violence, assaulting a parking attendant. He’d charge the players a few hundred bucks and let them pay over time.
Neuheisel got in touch with Barbara Hedges, the university’s athletic director, to see what she wanted to do.
At 1:30 p.m., less than seven hours after Stevens’ arrest, a fax arrived at the Seattle Police Department’s sexual-assault unit. It was addressed to Maryann Parker, the lead detective, who had been investigating the case for seven weeks.
The fax came from Hunsinger’s office. We’re representing Jerramy Stevens, the message said. Please call us immediately.
The month before, just after 3 a.m. on June 4, a UW student called 911 to report a possible rape in progress.
Walking back to his dorm, he’d passed a row of fraternities and sororities and seen two people against a building. A woman, wearing only a bra and maybe underwear, leaned against a wall, arms to her side. A tall man faced her, his back to the passer-by.
The situation didn’t look right, the student told police. The woman looked right at him but did nothing to cover up. She looked drugged or drunk: “Half passed out … eyes glazed … no one home.”
“The male was controlling things,” the witness said. “It wasn’t a two-person interlude.”
When the man turned and caught sight of the passer-by, he moved the woman behind a bush.
Seattle police responded but couldn’t find the two.
Nine hours later, around noon, a 19-year-old freshman woke up at the Pi Beta Phi sorority. She had a headache, stomach pain, sore ribs, scratched legs. She could barely move. Her bra and tube top were around her waist and covered in dirt. Her underwear was missing.
“What happened to me?” she asked her roommate.
About the same time, Jerramy Stevens emerged from his room. He lived with several teammates in a house north of campus. He pulled a pair of women’s underpants out of his jeans pocket and, according to a police report, told a roommate, “Look what I have.”
Stevens said he’d had sex with the freshman, whose middle name was Marie. “No way,” the roommate said. He couldn’t believe it, because he had heard Marie was a virgin.
Stevens’ story made the rounds. A friend of Marie’s heard one football player ask another: Did you hear that Jerramy had sex with Marie in the dirt outside a fraternity?
Meanwhile, Marie and her friends tried to figure out what had happened. Inside Marie’s room, a friend saw a fleece jacket that Stevens wore the night before. The jacket, covered in dirt, appeared to be stained with blood.
Marie couldn’t remember how she got home, she later told police. She’d had three beers over dinner before going to a fraternity party, and two more drinks while there. Stevens, a friend, had been at the party, too. The last beer Marie remembered being handed had already been opened. After that, she remembered next to nothing.
She stayed in bed most of the day. Her friends searched for her underwear outside the sorority and in an alley, but returned empty-handed.
That afternoon, word of what was being said at Stevens’ house got back to Marie. Her eyes “got huge,” a friend said later. “She had [a] look of complete horror on her face.”
Marie worried she may have been sexually assaulted. She worried about pregnancy and disease. Should I get a morning-after pill? she asked one friend.
About 9:30 that night, Marie got Stevens on the phone, she later recounted to police. What happened? she asked. Stevens told Marie he’d walked her home. “We kissed and some stuff,” he told her. Did we have sex? she asked. “No,” he told her. “Don’t trip, it’s nothing, don’t worry about it.”
Marie, crying, asked: Then why are you telling your friends we did? He denied saying that to anyone.
Afterward, Stevens told a roommate about this conversation. The roommate told Stevens: You have to call her back. You have to let her know you had sex. You at least owe her that.
Late that night, Marie went to the university hospital, across the street from Husky Stadium. She got a shot for nausea and was directed to Harborview Medical Center for a sexual-assault exam.
Marie’s parents went with her. The medical staff found semen in her vagina and rectum, and a doctor told Marie that her anus had been lacerated.
The semen was placed in a rape kit, for testing.
On June 6, the case landed on the desk of Maryann Parker, a 14-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department.
She interviewed Marie, who suspected she’d been slipped a date-rape drug. Investigators couldn’t say. Too much time had elapsed before Marie’s blood was drawn for testing.
Parker interviewed people who had been at the fraternity party. They said Marie’s condition changed suddenly that night. Her speech was slurred. She had trouble standing, leaned against people, and acted drugged: “Out of control.”
Marie’s friends told Parker they had escorted her from the party. Although the sorority was nearby, Marie was in no shape to walk home alone. Behind the fraternity, a police car pulled up, and an officer asked if Marie was all right. We’re just driving her home, Marie’s friends answered. On the way, the group saw Stevens in the alley. Marie’s friends dropped her off at the sorority but didn’t walk her in.
On the morning Stevens was arrested, Parker escorted him to the police station. She asked if he’d be willing to answer questions, but he said no.
His blood was drawn for DNA testing, and he was booked into jail.
This same day, another detective interviewed a defensive lineman who lived with Stevens. The lineman said he didn’t believe Stevens committed rape. Why not? the detective asked.
“Well … he’s my best friend,” the player said. “I hang out with champions.” Stevens, the player said, was “the type of guy where usually when he fools around he ends up having sex cause he’s a charming guy, chicks dig him.”
Stevens spent that Thursday night in jail.
The next day, about 15 of Stevens’ teammates showed up to support him at a scheduled bail hearing. But prosecutors said they needed more time to review the evidence and released Stevens without charges. Some of Stevens’ teammates cheered when told the news.
King County’s elected prosecutor, Norm Maleng, didn’t know beforehand that Stevens was going to be arrested. He and two top deputies — Dan Satterberg and Mark Larson — were “livid,” Parker says.
“They were mad that we had arrested him, because they had to deal with the media fallout,” Parker says. “After all, he was going to be a superstar.”
That Friday afternoon, a faceoff took place at the prosecutors’ offices. Parker said a meeting was called — “for me to explain my actions.”
Four of her superiors accompanied Parker: an assistant chief, a lieutenant and two sergeants. Six prosecutors attended, including Satterberg and Larson. Satterberg, the office’s No. 2, reported straight to Maleng. Larson ran the criminal division.
Satterberg sat across from Parker. Why did you arrest him? she said he asked.
One of Parker’s bosses told Satterberg: We don’t need your permission to arrest someone. All we need is probable cause.
As part of her investigation, Parker checked into Stevens’ background.
Stevens, 6 foot 7, 255 pounds, would be starting his third year at the UW in September. He looked to be perhaps the best tight end in the school’s history — and the UW was known for great tight ends.
He’d gone to high school in Lacey, in Thurston County. Both his parents were teachers; his mother became an assistant principal.
In the spring of 1998, when he was a senior in high school, Stevens showed up at a prearranged fight in a park. There, his friend hit a 17-year-old, James Hoover, in the head with a baseball bat.
After Hoover collapsed — unconscious — Stevens jumped up and stomped on his face.
Hoover’s jaw was broken. For six weeks, he ate with a straw.
When a sheriff’s detective first questioned Stevens, Stevens said he hadn’t been involved in the fight. But questioned again the next day, Stevens admitted what he had done.
Why’d you lie before? the detective asked. “I knew I had done something wrong, and I didn’t want to get in trouble for it,” Stevens answered.
Stevens was charged with felony assault. A judge let him await trial at home, wearing an electronic-monitoring device. Stevens soon tested positive for marijuana, violating the terms of his home confinement. As a result, he spent three weeks in the Thurston County jail.
At the time, Stevens had already accepted a football scholarship to the UW. The felony charge appeared to place his scholarship in jeopardy — but three UW coaches wrote the judge, saying the UW’s offer was still good.
Their background checks on Stevens showed “nothing but high marks,” wrote Scott Linehan, now head coach of the St. Louis Rams. “We believe this to be an isolated incident. Under our discipline and supervision I believe Jerramy will show this to be true.”
Jim Lambright, then the UW’s head coach, wrote: “We do believe in Jerramy.”
The coaches even asked if Stevens could be released from home confinement to practice with the team before trial. The judge agreed — even though Stevens had already violated the court’s orders.
Stevens went to football camp, where Lambright told reporters: “We don’t give up on a player because he makes one mistake.”
But a Thurston County sheriff’s captain, in a written report, said Stevens may have “a propensity toward violence.”
In high school, the report said, Stevens and another student allegedly punched holes in a classroom wall: “We are told the school learned of the vandalism and quietly permitted payment of the damage.” The sheriff’s office heard that Stevens violated school rules on alcohol and marijuana; kicked a football teammate in the testicles; and threatened referees in a basketball game after he was ejected for being too aggressive on the court.
With the assault charge pending, supporters of Stevens, including several teachers and a Mormon bishop, wrote to the prosecutor urging leniency. An English teacher described how Stevens once defended a kid with a speech impediment. “He has a gentle side,” the teacher wrote.
Stevens negotiated a plea deal for attacking Hoover. He was convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to time served.
At the UW, Stevens talked of putting the assault conviction behind him. “I’m more conscious of the choices I make now because I know there are consequences,” he told one reporter.
While investigating Stevens, Parker dug up an e-mail Stevens had sent to one woman he’d slept with at the UW. The e-mail said:
“i know that you are not going to beliewhat i have to say especially after satterday night but when i got your e-mail today i laughed a first but then it started to sink in and my heart started to break as i read over your words.
“i realize that i have [messed] up and I want to talk to you about being with you and how i can make it up to you. this is not a joke i want to have you in my arms and know that you are mine and ythat nothing that i have done or [a friend] has said caould ever change the way that i feel about you. when i think back to the night that i spent with you by ourselves i wish that i would have done one thing and that is, i wish i would have put … ”
Stevens then describes, in explicit terms, an anal-sex act he wanted to do to her. He closes with: “you whore dont ever utter my name again.”
Stevens shared this message with a teammate, who called it a “funny ass e-mail.” The teammate, when interviewed by a detective, called the woman who received the message “a typical football groupie.”
Parker says the e-mail was “very disturbing to read.” She placed it in her investigative file and interviewed the woman who received it. The woman broke down in tears.
Soon after Stevens’ arrest, Barbara Hedges, the athletic director, told reporters that the UW would conduct its own investigation of Stevens, to see if discipline was warranted.
But the university never did. Instead, Hedges and Neuheisel waited for prosecutors to act. Hedges received updates on the case directly from Satterberg.
In early August, a week after the arrest, police sent the DNA evidence to a Maryland laboratory. Treat this as a rush job, one prosecutor wrote, saying the county would pay extra to get the results fast.
The lab was to compare DNA from the sperm with the DNA from Stevens’ blood.
Meanwhile, a deputy prosecutor met with Marie’s family. The decision of whether to charge Stevens would be made soon after the lab results were in, he told them.
On Aug. 17, two weeks before the 2000 football season would begin, Parker got the DNA results back. It was a match.
From the get-go, Stevens was crucial to the team’s success. The Huskies’ top receiver from 1999 was injured. Others were inexperienced. The UW’s passing game was a question mark.
Stevens provided an answer.
In September, the UW won its first three games of the season, twice coming from behind. When the Huskies upset No. 4 Miami in the second game, Stevens recorded a career day: seven catches, 89 yards, one touchdown. The next week — on Sept. 16 — he did even better against Colorado, making seven catches for 102 yards, winning team honors as offensive MVP.
With its 3-0 start, the UW climbed to No. 8 in the national rankings.
On Sept. 21 — five weeks after the DNA results came back — prosecutors Dan Satterberg and Mark Larson met with police brass to discuss “potential proof problems” with the Stevens case.
They told John Pirak, an assistant police chief, how important it was to interview Stevens, calling his account critical to any charging decision.
The next day, a deputy prosecutor told police an interview had been arranged, according to police reports. But, he said, the prosecutor’s “front office” had agreed to certain conditions negotiated by Stevens’ attorney, Mike Hunsinger. First, the interview had to be in Hunsinger’s office. Second, Parker, the case’s lead detective, could not ask questions. Only the prosecutor would be allowed to do that.
Parker protested to her sergeant. It was her case. She knew the evidence best. She didn’t want to be cut out of the questioning. Parker’s sergeant didn’t like the deal, either. But if prosecutors considered the interview so crucial, the sergeant was willing to relent.
But, hours later, the deputy prosecutor told Parker of yet another condition: Maleng’s office had agreed to give crucial police evidence — the victim and witness statements — to Stevens’ lawyers before the interview.
The Seattle Police Department’s standard operating procedures allowed no such thing. If a suspect enters an interview with police file in hand, he can tailor his story to the facts already gathered. Suspects get to see the evidence after being charged, not before.
Parker called her sergeant at home to alert her. Word went up. The Police Department’s legal adviser was brought in. And in late September, Pirak, an assistant chief, told Satterberg and Larson: No deal. Police would not agree to release those statements. No exception would be made for this case.
The legal adviser, Leo Poort, recently said that in 30 years in that job, this is the only case he knows of where a deal like this was offered. Larson said such offers are “not customary,” but have been made in “some other cases.”
Prosecutors and police never did interview Stevens.
On Oct. 5, Detective Parker submitted the police evidence to prosecutors. Now they had to decide whether to file charges.
On Oct. 19, late at night, Donald Preston was returning home to Olympia after visiting his 6-year-old son, who was being treated in Children’s Hospital in Seattle for cancer.
A hard rain falling, Preston drove south on Interstate 5, using the car-pool lane. His 10-year-old daughter sat next to him in the passenger seat.
Ahead, Preston saw an accident, blocking traffic. As Preston slowed, a red Toyota pickup barreled up from behind and tried to swing around him. The truck sideswiped Preston’s Dodge Daytona — smashing in the driver’s side — before careening into the retaining wall, damaging its front end. The pickup’s driver had been “driving like a maniac,” one witness would say later, using the HOV lane as a passing lane.
The pickup’s driver was Jerramy Stevens. He got out, leaned against his truck, and called something like, “Is everybody OK?” Then he climbed back into his truck and drove away — offering no name, no phone number, no insurance card.
Preston needed to kick his door to get out. His daughter was shaken up but managed to memorize the pickup’s license plate.
A state trooper arrived and took down a report. “Unit 1 fled the scene,” she wrote. Now she had to find out who the driver of Unit 1 was.
On Oct. 24, 2000, King County’s elected prosecutor held a news conference to announce whether rape charges would be filed against Jerramy Stevens.
Norm Maleng looked into a wall of cameras and microphones. Stevens’ future was at stake. So, to the mind of many fans, was the UW football team’s.
Just three days before, the UW had defeated Cal to go to 6-1 and keep its Rose Bowl hopes alive. Down 11 in the fourth quarter, the Huskies had scored three touchdowns in two minutes. Stevens scored the first, on a 10-yard reception. He caught three passes in the final quarter and was named the game’s offensive MVP.
Maleng had faced situations like this before. In 1999, his office had declined to prosecute three football players accused of trashing a fraternity house and assaulting its members. Prosecutors cited “confusing and conflicting statements,” and said “identification seemed to be a problem.”
After Maleng’s office turned down the case, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office reviewed the evidence and charged all three players. All three pleaded guilty to misdemeanors. One player, convicted of assault, was sentenced to 10 days in jail.
In 1998, Maleng’s office was confronted with three other football players accused of beating a student on campus, with a crowd gathered around. A witness, using Husky Football magazine, identified the suspects. Maleng’s office declined to bring charges, citing “some conflicting witness statements.”
Now, in the Stevens case, Maleng announced: “We have concluded that there is insufficient evidence.”
His office would not be bringing charges.
The memory loss suffered by the accuser complicated the investigation, Maleng said. To prove rape, prosecutors needed to show that Marie had been physically helpless or mentally incapable of consent. The evidence showed neither, Maleng said.
After the announcement, Stevens thanked his teammates for their support. Neuheisel, the head coach, had told Stevens beforehand that a felony charge would mean an indefinite suspension. Now, Neuheisel said, “My general feeling is one of relief.”
Parker, the police detective who handled the case, recently said:
“I thought he should have been charged. I think most people in the Police Department thought he should have been charged. From the police perspective, I think there was overwhelming evidence that a crime had occurred. And then I think we should have left it to a jury to decide.
“I think we just felt, in our unit and in the Police Department as a whole, that this case was handled differently. And we felt it was because he was a University of Washington football star.”
Larson, the head of the county prosecutor’s criminal division, said he believes prosecutors made the right call. “We have no doubt she was pretty drunk that night. Real drunk,” he said. But proving helplessness was another matter.
Any suggestion, he said, that Stevens escaped charges because he played football “is outrageous and untrue.”
When prosecutors decide not to charge someone, they typically write a “decline” letter to police, explaining their reasons. The decline letter in the Stevens case, labeled “confidential,” included some damning language that never made it into Maleng’s news conference.
“It seems highly unlikely that the victim would have consented to anal intercourse with the suspect in a fraternity alley,” the letter said.
But, the letter added, jurors “could find reasonable doubt.”
The case hinged on Marie’s mental and physical state — and whether she was capable of consenting to sex.
The decline letter says an eyewitness who called 911 to report a possible rape in progress described Marie as “conscious and standing.” But, according to police reports, he also described her as “half passed out against a building … like she was drugged or drunk.”
The decline letter says Marie’s friends “describe her as standing, making limited conversation, and making decisions.” But, according to police reports, her friends described her as “unable to keep her balance,” having “slurred speech” and “acting like she was drugged.” One friend told police: “She couldn’t really talk or stand.”
The decline letter says: “None of her friends appeared afraid for her welfare.” But, according to police reports, one friend tried to take away her keys. Two others drove her home. Marie’s sorority was nearby, but she was unfit to walk, one friend told police.
The prosecutors’ decision not to charge Stevens “devastated” Marie, Parker said. She “did not feel supported by the prosecutor’s office at all.”
On Oct. 25, one day after Maleng announced that Stevens would not be charged with rape, a state trooper wrapped up her investigation of the collision on Interstate 5.
She now knew the driver of Unit 1 was Jerramy Stevens — the UW football player who was all over the news.
In Washington, a driver involved in an accident must remain at the scene; provide his name, address and insurance information; and, if someone’s hurt, try to help. Failure to do so amounts to hit-and-run. If the accident results in death or injury, fleeing is a felony. If only damage results, it’s a gross misdemeanor.
But Stevens wasn’t charged with any crime. Instead, the trooper wrote Stevens a ticket. Cited for driving too fast for conditions, Stevens paid a $119 fine.
Donald Preston, the driver of the car that Stevens hit, recently said: “I thought it was pretty typical. If it would have been myself, and I’m not a sports figure, I would have been put in jail.”
On Jan. 1, 2001, the UW beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl, 34-24.
“They took their place among the greatest of Washington teams on a blue, balmy, postcard day,” The Seattle Times wrote.
Stevens led the Huskies with five catches. Afterward, he ran around the field with a rose in his mouth.
With 43 receptions in all, Stevens had put together the finest season of any tight end in school history. Football News and Gannett News Service named him a second-team All-American.
The Huskies finished the season 11-1 and were ranked No. 3 in the country.
Contributions to the football program jumped from $5.4 million in 2000 to $6.9 million in 2001. Ticket sales jumped from $10.9 million to $11.9 million.
In donations and tickets, the football team made an extra $2.5 million coming off its Rose Bowl year.
There’s no telling how much the football team’s success drove other donations to the UW — ones not earmarked for athletics. University presidents like to talk football while raising money — at least they do when the football team is winning.
In 1998 — the year before Neuheisel arrived — the football team went 6-6 and brought in $23.7 million in ticket sales, donations and other revenue.
Under Neuheisel, the team put together four winning seasons. By the end, its revenue had jumped to $30.9 million a year.
When Neuheisel departed, the team went 6-6 again. Its revenue dipped by $2.3 million.
Four months after the Rose Bowl — on May 4, 2001, at a little before 1 a.m. — Stevens slammed the red Toyota pickup into the side of a retirement home, knocking a dresser onto a bed where a 92-year-old woman was sleeping.
His truck was stuck, so he used his school textbooks for traction, putting them under the tires. Then he drove off — but not before a 72-year-old man took down his license plate.
Stevens lied to police, saying he didn’t know who had been driving the truck. Caught in the lie, he apologized. Hunsinger, called at home in the wee hours, agreed to defend Stevens. Neuheisel, in San Diego playing golf, issued a statement saying he’d address the team on the need to make good decisions.
A month later, Stevens pleaded guilty to hit-and-run and received a 90-day jail sentence, suspended on condition that he stay out of trouble. Stevens’ parents took the truck’s keys away from him. Neuheisel suspended Stevens from the first half of that season’s opening game. Stevens said afterward: “It was hard sitting the first half.”
Stevens has learned his lesson, Neuheisel said.
Stevens announced in January 2002 that he would go pro, leaving school a year early. The Seattle Seahawks drafted him in the first round. His coaches at the UW vouched for him, said Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks coach.
“People make mistakes,” Holmgren told reporters. “I really trust that everything is behind him. … I think the longer I’m with this decision, I’ll just feel better and better about it.”
Stevens promised his parents he would still get his degree. And Seahawks media guides say he did. Stevens called graduation the best day of his life, saying: “I graduated from college, got my new Range Rover and moved into my new house. All in the same day.”
Stevens did get a new SUV and a top-floor condominium in Bellevue — but he left the UW without ever getting a bachelor’s degree.
A month after Stevens got his Range Rover, a trooper ticketed him for going 98 mph.
Stevens signed a five-year, $6.2 million contract with the Seahawks that required him to repay $300,000 if he got into trouble. No problem, Stevens said. He blamed his past on alcohol and said he’d quit drinking.
Three months later a trooper pulled Stevens over after he veered into oncoming traffic. Stevens, who had alcohol on his breath, blew a 0.051 — below the legal limit of 0.08. He was cited for negligent driving and paid a $490 fine.
In April 2003, a Medina police officer pulled Stevens over. Two open champagne bottles were in Stevens’ SUV. Have you been drinking? the officer asked. No, Stevens said.
On field-sobriety tests, Stevens couldn’t walk a straight line or keep his balance. His blood-alcohol level was about twice the legal limit. He eventually admitted drinking the champagne and said he’d run a stop sign because he was preoccupied, talking on his cellphone.
Stevens pleaded guilty to reckless driving. His lawyer — a specialist in DUI cases — told the judge: “I believe that I’ve come to understand the character of Jerramy Stevens. He is an individual, your honor, who is growing up.”
Stevens assured the judge he had no alcohol problem. The judge told Stevens: “If you do what you’ve always done, you will be what you’ve always been.”
Stevens served seven days in jail — five for violating the terms of his hit-and-run sentence, and two for reckless driving.
The NFL ordered Stevens into a substance-abuse program. The Seahawks made him repay $300,000 for violating his contract but allowed him to keep playing.
Stevens’ attorney complained that twice-weekly AA meetings ordered by the judge conflicted with Stevens’ football schedule. The judge knocked the requirement down to once a week.
In 2003, Marie sued Stevens, the UW and the fraternity, Sigma Chi, where she believed she’d been slipped a date-rape drug.
Three other women also filed lawsuits accusing UW football players of rape. Two sued Roc Alexander, a teammate of Stevens. The other sued Eric Shyne, a player who joined the team just after Stevens left.
Shyne met a woman at a party, where she was so drunk she fell on him and later vomited. She told police that she awoke with a “goobery” fluid in her vaginal area, semen on her panties and a flash of memory — Shyne atop her, with her saying, “No, don’t, I’m a virgin.”
Seattle police wanted Shyne to be charged with rape, but Maleng’s office refused, saying there wasn’t sufficient evidence of sexual contact. Prosecutors also questioned whether the woman was impaired enough to be incapable of consent.
Only one of Alexander’s two accusers had gone to police — and police didn’t believe the evidence warranted charges.
Mike Hunsinger, Stevens’ lawyer from the criminal case, represented him in the civil suit as well. He also defended Alexander. He had also represented Shyne in the criminal investigation.
Becky Roe, a Seattle lawyer and former prosecutor, represented the four women, all UW students. To Roe, her clients’ allegations were linked. By failing to hold Stevens accountable, she argued, the UW suggested to players that “they were invulnerable to charges of sexual assault.”
In 2004, Roe deposed Rick Neuheisel and Barbara Hedges, the coach and athletic director when Stevens was arrested on suspicion of rape. When prosecutors decided not to charge Stevens, Neuheisel and Hedges agreed that Stevens should not be disciplined.
Neuheisel’s test was this: If a player embarrassed himself, his family or the university, he should be punished. This episode embarrassed the UW, Neuheisel said, but “given the prosecution’s decision not to go forward, it looked as if Jerramy was not the reason for the embarrassment.”
Hedges said the UW could have disciplined Stevens no matter what prosecutors did, but she saw no grounds for that.
Do you understand, Roe asked Hedges, that a decision not to charge someone is not the same thing as declaring the person’s innocence?
Hedges said she believed that if someone avoided charges, he had been cleared. “The person has been exonerated,” she said.
She had no evidence to suggest Stevens’ conduct was “inappropriate,” Hedges said. Did you ever review the police reports? Roe asked. “I don’t recall,” Hedges said.
Roe deposed Jim Lambright, the former coach who brought Stevens to the UW despite an assault charge. Lambright told Roe that Stevens came from a good family and his high-school coach had vouched for him.
Roe also deposed Keith Gilbertson, the UW’s new head coach. She asked: “Do you believe that there is a perception among people in the public that [football players] are protected?” Gilbertson said: “I don’t know, but it is not true. It’s the other way.”
In her lawsuit against Stevens and the UW, Marie identified herself by her initials, not her full name. That’s not unusual in lawsuits alleging rape or molestation.
But the UW filed a motion in October 2003 demanding that her full name be disclosed in the court file, which would be available to the public. The UW argued that the public has an interest “in knowing all the facts involved”; that transparency is crucial when the defendant is a public entity; that “centuries of law … forbid secrecy (to any degree) in our judicial proceedings.”
A freshman when the incident occurred, Marie had become “extremely depressed” and left the UW soon after. She couldn’t face the possibility of seeing Stevens or his friends on campus. She couldn’t stomach how the UW had taken no action against him, letting him continue to play football. She attended a community college for five quarters, and returned to the UW after Stevens left.
Now, she couldn’t fathom what the UW would gain from making her name public. The university knew her identity. It could dig into her background all it wanted. Her claims would be tried in open court. But she didn’t want other students staring at her, whispering about her. She also feared “physical danger” from people upset at what she was alleging.
“I am dismayed that the University of Washington, where I am a student, would so deliberately and needlessly make my life difficult in this manner,” Marie wrote.
Two weeks before filing this motion, the UW made the opposite argument in a case in which it paid millions to settle a medical-malpractice claim. The entire file of that lawsuit was sealed, with the UW and other parties extolling the value of privacy.
In the Stevens case, the judge denied the UW’s motion to out the plaintiff.
In the spring of 2004, the lawsuit was settled. The agreement was confidential, barring Roe and Marie from disclosing its terms.
But in a letter to the UW’s attorney — obtained through a public-records request — Hunsinger described part of the deal. The agreement allowed the UW to be dismissed from the case, while Stevens and the fraternity would settle.
The deal also allowed Stevens to avoid questions about what happened on that June night four years before.
“One of the elements of the settlement is that Jerramy not be required to participate in any other litigation involving the UW, specifically the lawsuits filed by [Roe] regarding Eric Shyne and Roc Alexander,” Hunsinger wrote. “He does not want to be contacted by anyone, let alone deposed, or testify at trial.”
A month later, in June 2004, Hunsinger sent Roe a check — for $300,000 — to settle the case on behalf of Stevens and the fraternity.
Alexander, now in the NFL, settled the claims against him for an undisclosed amount.
Shyne didn’t show up to defend himself. A judge reviewed the evidence and ordered him to pay $350,000.
In Bellevue, at Stevens’ top-floor condo, neighbors complained of fireworks set off from his deck, of vomit raining down from above, of loud parties deep into the night. They had to go to court in August 2004 to get Stevens, by then a Seahawk, to pay his monthly dues of $420. Police kept getting called out to Stevens’ condo, because of noise complaints.
In March 2006, Stevens was caught driving with a suspended license. Prosecutors said they’d forgo charges if he enrolled in a re-licensing program. One month later, Stevens was caught again, driving with a suspended license. He was convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to 90 days in jail — all suspended, on condition that he stay out of trouble for a year.
In Stevens’ first four years with the Seahawks, his coaches waited for him to be the player they thought he was. His fifth year, Stevens played well in the regular season — only to drop three passes in the Super Bowl.
Still, he was poised to cash in. When he became a free agent on March 2, 2007, Stevens seemed likely to draw contract offers of $10 million and up. All he had to do was stay out of trouble.
Eleven days after he became a free agent, Stevens was stopped just after 2 a.m. by a police officer in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Stevens’ car had drifted over the lane marker three times. Stevens, alone, was not wearing a seat belt. His eyes were bloodshot and his speech slurred. He told the officer he’d had “a little” to drink. “Four or five margaritas.”
Getting out of the car, Stevens dropped his cellphone and wallet. Asked to do a walk-and-turn sobriety test, he stumbled and nearly fell.
His blood-alcohol level registered at 0.204 percent, 2 ½ times the legal limit.
That night, when the handcuffs clicked around his wrists, Stevens lost millions of dollars. He went from a sought-after free agent to a criminal defendant.
Stevens was convicted of extreme DUI, a crime that carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.
A judge instead gave Stevens 12 days, suspending the other 18 because he was enrolled in the NFL’s substance-abuse program. This is the same program Stevens entered in 2003, after being stopped with two open champagne bottles in his car.
The DUI in Arizona appears to have violated the terms of Stevens’ suspended sentence in King County — and could have led to more jail time here. But nobody in King County flagged it.
The NFL handed Stevens a one-game suspension — his only suspension as a pro.
Seven weeks after his arrest in Arizona, Stevens landed with another team. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him — on the cheap — for $600,000, which was $5,000 above the minimum for a player with his experience.
“He is a big, powerful, speedy tight end,” said general manager Bruce Allen. “He has had some off-the-field issues that have hampered him a bit. We had a very serious talk with him today. I think Jerramy Stevens is a good young man.”
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren had vouched for Stevens, Allen said.
“Sometimes,” Allen said, “you have to give people a chance.”