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July 18, 2007

Four players dismissed from team

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Four University of Minnesota football players being investigated in a sexual assault were kicked off the team Wednesday.

Dominic Jones, a cornerback charged Monday with third-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with the alleged rape of an 18-year-old woman in April, and three teammates - running back E.J. Jones, defensive end Alex Daniels and defensive back Keith Massey were dismissed from the team Wednesday, coach Tim Brewster said.

"It is an honor and a privilege to wear the uniform of the University of Minnesota and we have exceedingly high expectations for each of our student-athletes," Brewster said in a statement issued by the university. "We spend a considerable amount of time addressing our players regarding their personal conduct and we will not compromise our values. We are establishing a culture of integrity and we will demand that our players are held accountable for their actions."

Dominic Jones, a junior and one of the team's best defensive players, is accused of having sex with a woman who was "physically helpless" after a night of binge drinking at a campus apartment in early April.

Investigators estimated the woman's blood-alcohol content was more than 0.30 percent when they say Daniels used his cell phone to film Jones having sex with the woman. Forensic scientists later recovered a portion of the deleted film from the phone and say they have DNA evidence linking Jones to the woman.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Daniels, E.J. Jones and Massey also had sex with the woman earlier in the night. Freeman has not filed charges against those three but said they remain suspects in the case.

Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi said he supported the dismissals.

"I am in full support of the decision of coach Brewster and I appreciate how he has handled this very difficult situation," Maturi said in the statement. "While this issue is deeply disappointing, the Athletics Department is sending a clear and unmistakable message that it will never compromise its code of conduct."

The school said the dismissals do not immediately affect the four players' scholarship status or standing as students at the university, but both are subject to review by the NCAA and the school.

Jeff DeGree, an attorney for E.J. Jones, said his client did not blame Brewster for the move.

"When the county attorney chose to characterize these guys as suspects, we were very disappointed," DeGree said. "That left Coach Brewster with little alternative. E.J. is very, very disappointed. He loves the University of Minnesota and he loves playing football there."

DeGree said that Jones did nothing criminal that night and is at best a witness to the events.

"They have had two to three months to review the case," DeGree said. "They decided not to charge them at the time and I don't know what at this point could change their minds."

Phone messages left with attorneys for the other players weren't immediately returned.

The players were going to be counted on heavily this season by a Gophers team already expected to struggle in Brewster's first season.

Despite being just 5-foot-8, Dominic Jones had started 20 straight games and emerged as a vocal leader on the defense. He also led the Big Ten last season with a 23.0-yard average on kick returns.

Daniels, who was teammates with Dominic Jones and Massey in high school in Columbus, Ohio, was a highly touted recruit by Glen Mason who was expected to be a key contributor on an improving defense.

E.J. Jones was the only true freshman on the Gophers' offense to start a game last season and was expected to team with Amir Pinnix and Jay Thomas in another loaded Minnesota backfield.

Massey, Dominic Jones' half brother, played in nine games as a redshirt freshman last season.



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