Fumble!

Former Vikings great Carl Eller faces sexual-assault accusations--for the second time

Yushta's report indicates that he did reach Eller the next day and conducted a "fairly short" phone interview, during which the former football star denied any wrongdoing. "At any time did you touch her buttocks?" Yushta asked. "Ah, I'm not sure that I did," Eller responded.

"Was there a kiss involved with this?"

"Oh, there may have been just a, you know, a peck on the cheek or something like that."

"No lip to lip?"

"No, I don't know."

Yushta says he hoped to reinterview Eller at a later date but received a letter from him saying that "all communication needed to go through" Eller's Twin Cities attorney.

Concluding that he had enough evidence to prosecute the case, the sergeant asked county attorneys to charge Eller with fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct. But Assistant Nicollet County Attorney Jerold Lucas responded in a letter that while "the various reports describe a situation where the perpetrator touched the clothing covering [Catherine's] buttocks, kissed her on the lips, and hugged her," there had "not been a violation of the criminal sexual [conduct] statutes."

Yushta says he was disappointed in the outcome and adds that he considered Catherine a credible witness. "In interviews, what people say is one thing, and what they're displaying is more important," he elaborates. "I had a genuine feeling that this was something she had not anticipated. This particular case bothered me--that something like this could happen and there was no criminal case."

For her part, Catherine says the county attorney's office never contacted her about the case. Thinking back, she says she was "very naive" at the time; still, she adds, she can't understand why there was no charge. "It has bugged me for years. Assault is an intentional touching against one's will. Even a simple assault should have been filed." Nicollet County Attorney Michael Riley Sr. declined to comment on the case.

Prosecutors often find it difficult to build criminal sexual conduct cases, especially in situations that lack witnesses or physical evidence, says University of Minnesota Law School professor Mary Louise Fellows. "Remember that the prosecutor, in order to go forward with a case, has to not just have probable cause, they have to believe that a jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," the law professor explains. "If the defendant is a celebrity, there may be more ways for a defense attorney to say, 'Isn't this for the purpose for trying to get money?' or 'Don't you have an ulterior motive?'"

It remains to be seen how those considerations will play out in the more recent case involving Eller. According to North Mankato police reports, a woman called police from a pay phone at a SuperAmerica at about 2:00 a.m. on April 21, saying she'd been sexually assaulted. Capt. Wayne Hoffman, one of the investigating officers, says the woman is a student at Mankato State University.

Hoffman says police arrested Eller, who was in the area on speaking engagements, at a nearby motel, and that he was released later that day on his own recognizance. Eller has since told reporters that he has known the woman for "about a year" and that they had consensual sex. County Attorney Riley says they have not yet decided whether to file charges in connection with the incident.

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