Sexual-battery charges against UNC football player Allen Artis dismissed ahead of potential trial
Saying the matter had been “resolved to the satisfaction of the parties,” prosecutors on Thursday dismissed sexual-battery and assault charges against UNC-Chapel Hill football player Allen Artis.
The dismissal from Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall came six days after a court hearing that saw a judge authorize the issuance of subpoenas for evidence Artis’ lawyers thought could bear on his guilt or innocence.
A couple of other motions, including one that asked District Judge Charles Anderson to dismiss the case, remained pending.
“Some of those motions might have led [Woodall] to think it was going to be tougher than he thought to prevail, or might have reinforced his already [developed] belief that it was going to be tough to prevail,” said Kerry Sutton, one of Artis’ defense lawyers.
“I don’t know,” she added. “I know we had a very good day for submitting our version of what we expected to argue. And things turned around after that.”
Artis had stood accused of assaulting then-sophomore Delaney Robinson during an incident in February 2016.
Robinson has contended that she was raped, but last September, she went to a magistrate to swear out misdemeanor charges. She and her lawyer, Denise Branch, claimed at the prosecutors and campus police dragged their feet in bringing a case.
Artis, meanwhile, had maintained his innocence throughout. He reiterated that Thursday afternoon during a news conference with his attorneys at the Old Well on the UNC campus.
“I did not rape her,” he said.
There was never any dispute that he and Robinson had had sex. Woodall last year said the case turned on whether there was consent. Alcohol use was a factor.
“We can ‘if’ this whole thing to death,” said Stephen Lindsay, Sutton’s law partner and Artis’ co-counsel. “He’s very thankful it’s all over with, and ready to move forward. And I think everybody is. This has been incredibly hard for all of the parties that have been involved in this.”
Sutton noted that the dismissal of criminal charges had ended the last formal proceeding against Artis.
Previously, a campus disciplinary review ruled he hadn’t violated any university policy. UNC officials upheld that ruling after an appeal by Robinson.
With the prosecution over, it’s possible that Artis will resume his place on the football team. He’s been suspended from it since Robinson filed the charges.
Now, he “is eligible for reinstatement to our football program,” Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said. “Coach [Larry] Fedora and I look forward to meeting with Allen and his family soon to discuss next steps moving forward.”
Sutton and Lindsay, however, indicated they may still have issues to pursue regarding Branch, Robinson’s lawyer.
That would turn on a photo Branch gave reporters during a news conference last September, showing bruises on Robinson’s neck. Court motions from the Artis defense team indicate that Sutton and Lindsay suspect the image was manipulated.
Sutton on Thursday showed reporters a different image from the set of 13 she said campus police recorded early in the investigation. Taken from a different angle, it was considerably less dramatic.
“What you’re not looking at there is manhandled bruises on a woman’s neck,” she said when asked to summarize the image.
She added that “one of the possibilities” for follow-up is a complaint to the N.C. State Bar, the regulatory agency that handles the discipline of lawyers in North Carolina.
Its rules forbid lawyers participating in an investigation or litigation should avoid making public statements that “will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding.”
“The parties worked diligently at mediation to resolve this matter to their mutual satisfaction resulting in a dismissal of the charges,” said Branch, Robinson’s attorney. “The resolution is confidential. Delaney has suffered immeasurably and hoped that today’s resolution could begin her healing.”
Woodall agreed that the talks leading to the dismissal would remain confidential.
“These are difficult cases. These are two very young people,” Woodall said. “I hope that they can move on from this and I’m very confident that they will.”