MADISON (WKOW) – A Dane County judge ruled Thursday a rape crisis advocate who counseled one of the victims of former Badger football player Quintez Cephus’s alleged sex assaults may be called as a trial witness about a police interview she participated in.
The 20-year old Cephus is scheduled to stand trial July 29 in connection to the sexual assaults of two fellow students at his campus apartment in April last year. Cephus maintains the sexual encounters were consensual.
Authorities say rape crisis advocate Valarie Johnson counseled one of the students, and attended an interview between a Madison Police detective and the student.
Cephus attorney Kathleen Stilling says a transcript of the interview shows Johnson interjected during the interview, modifying portions of the student’s responses.
” ‘What about the blanket? You said you took a blanket and wrapped yourself,’ ” Stilling quotes Johnson as saying during the interview. ” ‘Oh, I don’t remember,’ ” Stilling says the student responded.
“If the advocate is going to get involved in influencing or attempting to influence the investigative process, I’m sorry, I don’t call the advocate telling her things to say part of counseling,” Stilling says.
Judge William Hanrahan notes communications between a victim and a rape crisis advocate carry legal confidentiality. But Hanrahan says because Johnson went beyond counseling and assistance in a police interview setting, Cephus is entitled to call her as a witness if the police interview becomes part of trial evidence.
“Prior inconsistent statements, those that demonstrate inconsistencies goes right to the heart of the defense,” Hanrahan says.
“The idea that that advocate who says to her, ‘What you say to me is confidential, I’m here for you,’ would then come to court and say things about you, is really destructive,” Johnson’s attorney Jennifer Binkley says.
“We know they are very under-reported crimes,” Binkley says. “So if you have further discomfort and distrust in the system, and the word gets out and folks talk to each other…it certainly has a chilling effect,” Binkley says.
Binkley says she’s prepared to offer further objection during the trial if Johnson is called to testify. She also says lawmakers may need to clarify statutes on the confidentiality of sex crime victim information.
Binkley says this ruling could prompt new protocols for crisis intervention.
“Maybe we can look at that, and new training can be done to protect the relationship between advocate and the victim,” Binkley says.
Cephus was in Georgia Thursday and allowed to participate in the court hearing by phone.
Another expected trial witness is current Badger football stand-out, wide receiver Danny Davis. Davis was with Cephus on the evening the women were allegedly sexually assaulted, and served a two game suspension for his actions, although he’s not been criminally charged. Court records state Davis photographed one of the women when she was nude and without her consent.
Cephus was suspended for the entirety of the Badgers’ 2018-19 season. He withdrew as a student earlier this year.