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Assault trial opens for Vikings CB Cook
Question of the Day
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook became so jealous when he discovered his girlfriend was talking to another man that he squeezed her throat until she couldn’t breathe, a prosecutor said Wednesday during opening statements in Cook’s domestic assault trial.
But a defense attorney said the woman lied about being choked in October. David Valentini told jurors that Chantel Baker was angry and drunk when she punched Cook multiple times, and the 6-foot-2, 212-pound football player reflexively struck her after she hit him in the back of the head.
“Just because he’s bigger doesn’t make him the aggressor,” Valentini said. “He has a right to protect himself.”
Cook, 25, is on trial in Hennepin County on felony charges of domestic assault by strangulation and third-degree assault. Authorities were called to his home early on Oct. 22 and said they found his girlfriend of 10 months crying and bloodied. They said the marks on her neck and hemorrhaging in her eye were consistent with strangulation. Medical records show her eardrum was perforated and she lost hearing for two weeks.
Cook missed that weekend’s game against the Green Bay Packers because he was in jail. Assistant County Attorney Sarah Hilleren said Cook called Baker from jail and said it was her fault. Baker felt responsible and apologized, Hilleren said, and more than two weeks later, she went to police and said she had lied about being choked.
Cook and Baker are both from Virginia, and Cook regularly flew Baker to his home in Eden Prairie. According to opening statements, Cook, Baker, Cook’s roommate and another man went to dinner and drinks and visited a strip club on Oct. 21.
Hilleren said Cook was disrespecting Baker that evening and became defiant, leaving the strip club without him and refusing to get out of the limo. Hilleren said Baker was texting another man, and Cook got angry.
At Cook’s house, Baker threw a lamp at Cook, but missed him. Hilleren said Cook tossed the woman on the bed and began choking her, but Baker fought back. When she got up, Cook “walloped her so hard on the side of the head” that she hit the wall, Hilleren said.
In Valentini’s account, Cook was trying to talk to Baker when she sucker-punched him in the face. Then, Valentini said, Cook was struck in the back of the head. Thinking Baker had a weapon, Cook whirled around to bat it away but instead hit Baker, Valentini said.
Valentini said Baker tripped and fell into the wall, then got up and began punching Cook in the face. Valentini said Cook held Baker’s hands together near her throat in an attempt to get her to stop punching him. Valentini said that could have caused Baker’s neck injuries.
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