Suspended University of Wisconsin-Madison student Alec Cook appears in court after being charged with multiple counts of sexual assault. Photo / AP
As a teenager, Alec Cook used to alleviate his boredom by wandering the school halls strumming his guitar.
“Usually the teachers find it really funny,” he told his high school newspaper, although one suspects he may have misread their response to his antics.
Now a 20-year-old junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cook has been labelled a serial predator after dozens of women reported non-consensual encounters with him to police.
The floodgates opened on Wednesday after Cook fronted court charged with repeatedly raping and choking a fellow student over several hours at his apartment on October 12.
The story ran in the local media before getting picked up nationwide and the floodgates opened.According to her police statement, the alleged victim described how the 180cm, 90kg Cook strangled her to near unconsciousness during the assault, “throwing her around the room” while forcing her into different sexual positions over a period of around two and a half hours.
Alec Cook has been labelled a serial rapist after dozens of women reported having been sexually assaulted by him. Police have charged him in relation to six alleged victims.
A second woman came forward, telling detectives: “I saw the news
story and was (so) empowered by another girl being able to tell what happened to her, that I thought I could now finally tell.”
The case snowballed as women started sharing their run-ins with Cook on Facebook and by Thursday, police had filed 30 charges against him relating to six women, ranging from sexual assault and strangulation to stalking and false imprisonment.
At least one victim believes Cook drugged her before forcing himself on her.
One woman claims Cook groped her no less than 15 times during one ballroom dancing lesson, despite the public setting and her repeated protests.
That led to the dance teacher circulating an email pointing out the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching.
During a court hearing on Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Colette Sampson said Cook kept disturbing accounts of the assaults in a black leatherbound notebook found at his apartment.
It contained grooming and stalking techniques for numerous women and a list of potential victims, she said.
There were more than 20 such notebooks but only one had been reviewed by investigators so far.
Madison Police detective Grant Humerickhouse said entries found in that book documented “what he wanted to do with the females”.
“Disturbingly enough, there were statements of ‘kill’ and statements of ‘sexual’ desires,” Det Humerickhouse told the court.
Chris Van Wagner, attorney for Alec Cook, displays an enlarged copy of a notebook page belonging to his client. Photo / AP
Cook’s lawyers, Jessa Nicholson and Chris Van Wagner, told reporters after the proceeding that they believe the ballroom assaults never happened, noting the complaint didn’t cite any witnesses. The rest of the encounters, they said, were consensual.
Mr Van Wagner showed reporters a page from Cook’s book with the word “Killed?” written at the top and said its meaning was unclear.
He said Cook had been vilified on social media
and that other women were coming forward only because they were “frightened” by the posts about him.
“He’s been painted as the face of evil,” Mr Van Wagner said. “That’s wrong.”
On Thursday he issued a posted a statement on Facebook in defence of Cook and urged people to share it.
“Much of what has been on Facebook has been character assassination of my client,” Mr Van Wagner told the Star Tribune.
“He’s been accused of serious crimes, but the media firestorm has prompted a lot of people to apparently go back and re-examine their relationships with him.”
Van Wagner issued a statement Wednesday afternoon asking people to remember that nothing has been proven.
“Keep in mind that not everything you hear is true,” he said.
According to a 17-page complaint tendered by the prosecution
, the accuser from the October 12 incident says she went his apartment after studying with him at a campus library. She said he assaulted her for two and a half hours, maintaining what she described as a “death grip” on her arm or body.
Cook told police the woman never told him to stop, the complaint said. Another woman came forward two days after charges were filed in that case. She said she met Cook at her friend’s birthday party in March 2015. Two weeks later she visited his apartment, where he began kissing her forcefully, then sexually assaulted her.
The same day that Cook was charged with the October 12 assault, two other women reported having been assaulted by him.
One woman told police she was in a ballroom dance class with Cook during the spring 2016 semester. She accused him of repeatedly touching her breasts and buttocks while they were dancing despite her asking him to stop. The touching occurred 15 to 20 times over the semester, she said.
The class instructor told investigators she got an email from the woman saying she was uncomfortable with how Cook was touching her. The instructor responded by speaking to the class about appropriate contact during dances and sending a follow up email.
She said no other students complained about Cook.
Another woman told police that she met Cook during a human sexuality class and began dating him in January, the complaint said. She said he assaulted her at his apartment in February. She told police at one point she told Cook “OK, let’s just have sex” but she believes she said that to make herself feel as if the assault was consensual, the complaint said.
Another woman told police on Monday that she met Cook during an psychology class experiment. They had consensual sex at his apartment in August, the woman said, during which he tried to choke her.
After taking a break to smoke marijuana, Cook tried to have sex with her again, this time slapping her and leaving bruises.
Cook has been suspended by the university while the investigation continues and is expected to apply for bail next week.