A federal judge granted Illinois standout Terrence Shannon Jr.’s request for a temporary restraining order Friday, a decision that allowed him to rejoin the team and play again weeks after he was suspended indefinitely following his December arrest on a felony rape charge for an alleged incident in Lawrence, Kansas.
The ruling came a day after Shannon waived his right to an initial hearing in Douglas County (Kansas). A judge set a Feb. 23 date for his preliminary hearing in the criminal case.
University of Illinois associate chancellor Robin Kaler issued a statement after Friday’s ruling saying Shannon “has been reinstated to full status as a University student-athlete and will be eligible for basketball practice and competition.” It also said that it “will continue to review the Court Order and monitor the case.”
Shannon’s lawyers had requested the injunction earlier this month, claiming the school had made a “rush to judgment” and used an “unfair” process when it made the decision to suspend Shannon indefinitely late last month after a warrant was issued for his arrest after the alleged incident in September. A woman at a bar claimed Shannon had inappropriately touched her and sexually assaulted her.
Illinois officials responded and said they had “jurisdiction” over students attached to serious criminal charges. The school also said allowing Shannon to play would diminish its ability to address future conduct with students on its campus.
Judge Colleen Lawless, a federal judge in the United States District Court of the Central District of Illinois, ruled Friday against any monetary damages but stated the suspension will cause “harm” to Shannon.
“The Plaintiff has established that he has clearly ascertainable rights that need protection and there is some likelihood of success on the merits,” Lawless wrote in her ruling. “The Court further finds that Plaintiff has no adequate remedy at law and will suffer irreparable harm without an injunction. The potential harm to Plaintiff outweighs any harm to the University. The public interest is not harmed by granting injunctive relief to allow for additional procedural safeguards while he is presumed innocent of the criminal charges. … Therefore, Plaintiff Terrence Shannon, Jr.’s Verified Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is granted. It is hereby ordered that: Defendant, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, and all of its officers (including, but not limited to, Defendant Timothy Killeen), administration, employees, units, divisions, affiliates, and other agents, are hereby enjoined from continuing to suspend Plaintiff from the basketball team pursuant to the [Division of Intercollegiate Athletics] Policy.
“Defendants are enjoined from suspending Plaintiff from the basketball team without at least affording him the protections of the [Office of Student Conflict Resolution] Policy. The obligations of Defendants pursuant to this Order are to be construed as broadly as possible. This Order shall remain in effect until modified or terminated by a subsequent order.”
Through his attorney, Shannon said he’s happy to return to the court.
“[Shannon] is grateful for today’s ruling and looking forward to playing for the Illini again,” the statement said. “[Shannon] is also thankful to his legal team, lead counsel Rob Lang, Steve Beckett, Mark Goldenberg, Zoe Spector, Tom Horscroft, and Mark Sutter.”
In late December, Shannon was arrested and charged with “rape; sexual intercourse without consent and use of force.” In September, Shannon had traveled to Kansas for a football game. A woman told police Shannon inappropriately touched her before he sexually assaulted her at the bar. Shannon was suspended once a warrant for his arrest was made public in December. Athletic director Josh Whitman said that month that the school learned of the Lawrence, Kansas, police investigation involving Shannon in late September. But the warrant issued for his arrest on Dec. 27, per school officials’ claims, was the first “actionable” information they’d received.
According to documents obtained by ESPN this week, a University of Illinois police detective received details of the sexual assault investigation as early as Sept. 27, three months before school officials say they had enough information to suspend him.
Shannon is averaging 21.7 points per game for Illinois, which will face Rutgers at home on Sunday.
Information from ESPN’s Shwetha Surendran was used in this report.