Expelled student Alec Cook, who was scheduled to go on trial on Feb. 26 in the first of seven trials on 23 charges involving 11 female UW-Madison students, pled guilty Wednesday to five felony charges involving five accusers.
The remaining charges were dismissed in a hearing before Dane County Circuit Judge Steven Ehlke, under a plea agreement reached between prosecuters and the defense.
Calm and attentive, Cook sat between defense attorneys Chris Van Wagner and Jessa Nicholson Goetz and responded to Ehlke's questions on whether he understood the proceedings.
Cook responded "guilty" to each of the five felony charges enumerated by Ehlke in a quiet courtroom where a number of his accusers sat in the spectator galley and news reporters packed an adjacent media room.
Cook pleaded guilty to three counts of third-degree sexual assault, one count of strangulation and one count of stalking in five separate incidents that occurred between March 2015 and October 2016.
The first accuser went to police in October 2016, and following news reports of charges resulting from her allegations, more female students came forward. As the number of accusers mounted, UW-Madison suspended Cook, then expelled him after a disciplinary hearing.
Cook had been charged with 23 offenses involving 11 accusers in incidents between September 2014 and October 2016. The charges were: six counts of second-degree sexual assault/use of force; one count of second-degree sexual assault/sex organ injury; three counts of third-degree sexual assault; two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault; two counts of strangulation and suffocation; three counts of false imprisonment; two counts of stalking; and four counts of disorderly conduct.
Defense attorneys had won separation of the charges into seven trials.
Publicity around the case was so inflammatory that Ehkle and Dane County Circuit Judge John Hyland, who was to hear one of the cases, ruled that the trials could be moved from Dane County to Jefferson County.
Cook faces 39 years, six months in prison and $95,000 in fines if maximum allowed sentences are imposed in all counts.
A hearing date was not immediately set.