Vikings cornerback Chris Cook was found not guilty of all charges against him from his October fight with his girlfriend.
Cook was charged with domestic assault by strangulation and third-degree assault after an October incident in which he was accused of punching and choking his girlfriend, Chantel Baker. Baker later recanted the story she initially gave to police, leaving it up to the jury to decide if Cook was acting in self-defense after an argument ensued during the weekend of Oct. 22, when Baker, a Virginia resident, was in town to visit Cook.
The defense said Cook planned to propose during that weekend, but he and his girlfriend began arguing when Baker thought Cook spent too much time with a stripper that gave him a lap dance earlier in the night and Cook later found out that Baker had been communicating with an ex-boyfriend.
The prosecution painted the actions as the "defendant's rage" and the defense argued self-defense against an "angry" woman.
Testimony concluded Wednesday and the jurors deliberated for more than 2½ hours before being sent home. They returned on Thursday morning before rendering the not guilty verdict in the afternoon.
Both felony counts left open the possibility of jail time, but probation was considered a more likely outcome, given state sentencing guidelines, if Cook had been convicted of the felonies.
Baker initially told police and medical personnel that Cook placed his hands around her neck twice. Cook said he slapped her in self-defense after she threw a lamp at him and hit him with a shoe.
Asked on Wednesday, before the verdict was in, what role Cook would have with the team, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said they were taking a wait-and-see approach.
"We will have something at some point," Spielman said. "We're waiting to let the legal process take its course and we'll go from there."
The Vikings suspended Cook for two games last year before reinstating him but not allowing him to practice or play. The suspension cost Cook $52,941.18. The NFL isn't likely to discipline Cook further under its player conduct code.
"We will review the facts, but we do not expect league discipline in this matter," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail to VikingUpdate.com this afternoon.
The Vikings appear willing to take Cook back.
"We respect the legal process and the decision regarding Chris Cook. We have also thoroughly considered Chris' situation and how he has approached this matter," the team said in a statement. "We will meet with Chris in the near future and believe he deserves the opportunity to rejoin our organization."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.