The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Not guilty: Illinois star Terrence Shannon Jr. acquitted by jury in rape case

Head+coach+Brad+Underwood+embraces+fifth+year+guard+Terrence+Shannon+Jr.+during+senior+night+at+the+State+Farm+Center+on+March+5.+Shannon+has+been+found+not+guilty+of+sexual+assault+charges+by+a+Kansas+jury.
James Hoeck
Head coach Brad Underwood embraces fifth year guard Terrence Shannon Jr. during senior night at the State Farm Center on March 5. Shannon has been found not guilty of sexual assault charges by a Kansas jury.

A six-month legal battle is complete for former Illinois star Terrence Shannon Jr. after he was charged with rape and sexual assault in December 2023. The charges stemmed from a trip Shannon took to Kansas to support the Illinois football team in early September 2023, where he was accused by a woman of touching her inappropriately without consent while at a local bar. Shannon was suspended by the University for six games until a judge granted him a temporary restraining order to return to play in January 2024.

For the remainder of the college basketball season, Shannon did not speak to the media. His first press conference happened on May 13 at the NBA Combine in Chicago, but Shannon could not comment on his case, referring reporters to his June 10 trial date and emphasizing his focus on basketball.

Now, that case is over. On Thursday afternoon, the jury ruled Shannon was innocent, handing out two ‘not guilty’ verdicts to the former Illinois star.

Shannon appeared at court in Lawrence, Kansas this week for the trial, and after jury selection on Monday, opening arguments began Tuesday morning. The state acknowledged in their opening arguments that there was no video of the alleged incident and that DNA evidence from swabs on the alleged victim’s genitalia did not point to Shannon as a suspect. Shannon’s legal team leaned on this fact heavily during their opening remarks and also discussed how positively everyone views him.

“He did not do this and he would not do this,” said Shannon’s attorney Mark Sutter. “Unlike most kids, he has a real chance to play in the NBA and would never screw this up with all eyes on him.” 

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The alleged victim testified next, saying, “As he pulled me towards him, he shifted arm around to my hip on top of my skirt. He then moved under my skirt to grab my butt. He moved my underwear and put his fingers inside of me.”

Shannon’s attorney performed a cross-examination of the witness, attacking the credibility of her statements on the basis that she had altered her story multiple times since the alleged incident occurred, including in statements to the police and at the May 10 preliminary hearing. 

Later on Tuesday, Officer Leitner testified as the lead detective on the case. He interviewed the alleged victim and her friend, Kansas basketball players and went through a large amount of cell phone data. When trying to identify a suspect, he went through photos of Kansas and Illinois athletes. The alleged victim identified Shannon and Leitner ran with him as the suspect, not considering any other potential witnesses.

On Wednesday, multiple student-athletes gave their testimony. Kansas basketball star Hunter Dickinson, Illinois graduate assistant DyShawn Hobson and former Texas Tech teammate Kevin McCullar Jr. all testified and gave a similar message: They were in the bar with Shannon that night, he seemed in control of himself and they did not see him interact with any women or see any incident occur.

What happened next, however, is the moment that likely sealed any chance of the prosecution winning the case. Sutter presented text messages from the alleged victim in a group chat with her friends after ESPN released the story of Shannon’s charges on December 28, 2023. 

Friend: (ESPN article link shared) OMG 

Best friend: You got him 

Alleged Victim: YUPPP YESSSIRR

Friend: Got his ass (two money-face emojis)

This shocked those in the courtroom and people around the county following the trial. From the use of a money-face emoji, the defense argued to those watching that there was a financial motivation for the alleged victim. Social media posts began to pour in from Shannon’s former teammates, including Marcus Domask, Luke Goode, RJ Melendez and Coleman Hawkins, all showing support for the former Illinois star.

Former Illinois guard Justin Harmon showed support on social media, but he also testified on Wednesday. Harmon guard was with Shannon in Lawrence when the alleged incident occurred, but he told the jury that he didn’t witness anything and that he and Shannon drank but were not intoxicated. This reflected the same story told by previous witnesses.

On Wednesday and Thursday, two character witnesses were also called by the defense: Illinois Assistant Director of Student Engagement Reba Daniels, who was Shannon’s academic advisor, and Illinois assistant coach Tim Anderson, who has known Shannon since eighth grade. Both witnesses attested to his kind and gentle personality and character and said that the headlines about Shannon did not reflect the type of person that he is.

Finally, before closing arguments, Shannon himself took the stand. Shannon explained that he answered all police questions, turned himself in when a warrant for his arrest was issued and complied with a school-led investigation. He doubled down on the fact that he did not commit any crime or see the woman before the May 10 preliminary hearing.

“I did not grab, touch, pull, rape or assault the alleged victim,” said Shannon definitively. “I would never do anything like this because a member of my family was raped in the past.”

Closing arguments began after a short break following Shannon’s testimony. The prosecution asked the jury to convict Shannon of rape in their final words, saying, “When he wants something, he gets it. He is the big man on campus. He might as well be the king of the University of Illinois.” 

Shannon’s attorney followed up with a closing argument that went right at the Kansas district attorney’s office and the validity of the trial.

“This is not about Air Jordan’s or free stuff,” said Sutter. “This is about someone’s life. This is not a trial. It’s a travesty.”

Sutter continued his closing argument by bringing up that there was no physical DNA evidence of Shannon on the alleged victim, there were no eyewitnesses and the dollar sign emojis used in the alleged victim’s group text indicated they were looking for monetary gains.

He closed by stating, “This is not how he (Shannon) was raised. My client has suffered enough. Stop the madness. Sign the not guilty verdict on both — so we can all go home. Thank you.”

Following closing arguments, the jury deliberated for almost two hours before delivering the not guilty verdict on both counts, freeing Shannon from any accusations of misconduct or criminal activity.

With his legal battle now behind him, Shannon will now be able to focus on finishing preparation for the 2024 NBA Draft, which will be held on June 26 and 27. Shannon has been projected to be selected from the middle or late first round to the early second round. It remains to be seen if he will file a civil suit for damages in response to the case brought against him.

 

@sahil_mittal24

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About the Contributors
Sahil Mittal
Sahil Mittal, Senior Sports Reporter
James Hoeck
James Hoeck, Photo Editor
Heyo! I am James Hoeck, a third-year undergraduate student in photography with a minor in media. I have been a part of Illini Media for two years, starting back in fall 2021. I hold the position of Photo Editor here at The Daily Illini. I also work as Photo Editor for Illini Media’s Illio Yearbook. There is a good chance you will see me out and about on campus taking photos for my personal work or for The DI and/or Illio! If you want to check out more of my work, visit my socials linked below.
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