Prosecutors, citing a lack of evidence, have declined to pursue criminal charges in connection with several University of Minnesota wrestlers suspected of using and selling the prescription sedative Xanax this past winter. In addition, no charges will be pursued against their coach for his knowledge of the situation.
But one official cautioned that the decision doesn’t mean innocence in a case where newly released documents reveal investigators were stonewalled at nearly every turn — including by coach J Robinson, who refused to turn over the names of student-athletes and documents in his possession, saying it would cause “carnage” to his program.
Jean Heyer, spokeswoman for the Hennepin County attorney’s office, confirmed that prosecutors had declined to bring criminal charges in the case, but otherwise had no comment.
Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said that U police presented their case to her office last week, after approaching the county attorney’s office.
“We reviewed all the evidence and there was not sufficient evidence to support charges in the case and it’s as simple as that,” Segal said.
“Declining charges is different from saying that people acted appropriately,” she added. “It means there’s not evidence that fit in the criminal charges that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”
U spokesman Evan Lapiska said that school officials were aware of the decision by prosecutors. He declined further comment, citing the school’s continuing internal inquiry.
“As far as the university is concerned, there’s no change because our investigation is still ongoing,” he said.
Lapiska confirmed that Robinson remains on paid administrative leave. Because of student confidentiality rules, he wasn’t permitted to disclose the status of the wrestlers under investigation.
‘I could have killed someone’
A 15-page report released Wednesday details the investigation that began when an anonymous member of the team reported to university police April 8 that 14 members of the team were using and selling 500 to 1,000 pills of Xanax on campus, that Robinson knew of the situation and offered “amnesty” to two wrestlers who came forward, disposed of the drugs and wrote letters of apology.
“As a member of the wrestling team I do not want to stand by and let this happen anymore because I want us to be successful again,” the wrestler told police. “If this situation is not taken care of and just swept under the blanket, then what next?”
The anonymous wrestler said the athletes’ supplier was a former teammate who transferred to another school last winter.
A number of apology letters written at Robinson’s behest are included in the report. They detail the drug use and the potential consequences.
“I should have known that I would get caught eventually and that my teammates could have gotten in serious trouble or I could have even killed someone if they overdosed,” one wrestler’s apology letter read. “ … I learned that the drug business is very dangerous and I as well could have been seriously injured or even killed if I met up with the wrong people like I did when they got stolen from me.”
A text message referred to in the report also alludes to an overdose, saying “Saw [name redacted] and he’s in bad shape.”
Over the course of their inquiry, U detectives contacted Robinson. In multiple interviews he acknowledged the drug use, called it a confidential matter and said he was taking care of it internally. Asked about his players selling drugs, Robinson said that he heard “a lot of stuff,” spoke with his players in confidence and assured them that nothing they discussed would be divulged unless the wrestlers involved were given immunity.
Robinson’s attorney, Ryan Kaess, said Tuesday the coach was trying to help his team members when he rebuffed police requests for his cooperation. Kaess also downplayed the dealing of Xanax, calling the drug sales “ticky-tack violations.”
“He said [to police], ‘Listen, I’m not going to work with you,’ ” Kaess said. “ ‘Why are you ostensibly coming after these kids? We need to help them — not hang a felony around their necks.’ ”
The report details multiple attempts by detectives to interview the athletes, only to have the students elude them or hire attorneys by the time they were tracked down.
After receiving word of the Xanax distribution as early as February, U coaching staff wanted the wrestlers screened for drugs.
Rich Schlotfeldt, U athletic trainer, told police in an interview that he wanted to arrange for testing of the team, but said there were scheduling issues, including the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament in early March. The Gophers finished ninth in the tournament, the worst showing in Robinson’s 30 years as coach.
“Further discussion was had by wrestling coaching staff and it was decided that they would wait until after the season was over,” the report said.
When the entire team was tested for drugs, two members tested positive for amphetamines, and one for marijuana. Despite the suspicions of Xanax use, the athletic trainers did not screen for that drug.
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064