UI cop knew of Shannon case months before ban

A University of Illinois police detective received details of the sexual assault investigation into Illini men’s basketball player Terrence Shannon Jr. from Lawrence, Kansas, police as early as Sept. 27, three months before school officials say they had “actionable information” to suspend him, according to email exchanges obtained by ESPN.

University of Illinois detective sergeant Grant Briggs exchanged emails with Lawrence detective Josh Leitner in September about obtaining a search warrant and scheduling an interview with Shannon, according to documents ESPN obtained through open records laws. In a case report dated Sept. 27, Briggs wrote that he had spoken to Leitner that day “regarding a rape and sexual battery incident that occurred in Lawrence, Kansas.”

“Leitner provided police report narratives pertaining to the investigation,” Briggs wrote in the report. “He also provided a link to the interview of the victim. I reviewed the report narratives, the interview video, and the summary of facts provided by Det. Leitner. I determined the facts supported his request for a complaint and affidavit for search warrant.”

Shannon was arrested Dec. 28 and charged with rape, sexual intercourse without consent and use of force. According to a police affidavit, a woman told police that Shannon digitally penetrated her at a bar in Lawrence without her consent on Sept. 9. A lawyer for Shannon has said he is innocent and intends to take the case to trial.

Illinois’ regular season began on Nov. 6, and Shannon played in the team’s first 11 games. Shannon has been contesting his suspension, and on Friday, a federal judge granted his request for a temporary restraining order against the school and he was reinstated to the team.

On Sept. 27, Leitner wrote to Briggs and University of Illinois police detective Michelle Kaeding in an email: “Thank you very much for your assistance in getting a search warrant. Attached are my narrative reports I have completed on this case as well as a summary of what I would write in the affidavit for search warrant if I were the author.”

The university released attachments associated with those emails to ESPN on Friday, following repeated requests. Among the attachments was a sworn affidavit for a search warrant signed by a judge on Sept. 28 showing Briggs knew explicit details of what the woman reported to Lawrence police.

When contacted by ESPN, Patrick Wade, a spokesman for University of Illinois police, said, “We would not have any information to offer with it being another department’s investigation.” In a subsequent email, he added, “UIPD shared very limited information with Division of Intercollegiate Athletics staff who helped facilitate UIPD’s execution of the search warrant. It is not within our policy to share or communicate specific details or reports about an ongoing investigation for non-law enforcement purposes.”

In a statement to ESPN, Derrick Burson, a spokesman for Illinois athletics, said: “The documents you received under [the Freedom of Information Act] were in the possession of University of Illinois Police (UIPD), not the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA). UIPD made clear to DIA that it was not at liberty to share the specific information in its possession due to the ongoing investigation in Lawrence. As a result, no documents with actionable information were received by DIA until December 27, when DIA received a copy of the arrest warrant and a Lawrence, Kansas police report.”

The blog Champaign Showers first reported about the emails Thursday.

Athletic director Josh Whitman said in December the school learned of the Lawrence police investigation involving Shannon in late September but didn’t receive “actionable information” until a warrant was issued for Shannon’s arrest on Dec. 27, at which point Illinois suspended him from all team activities. Whitman said that the athletic department had “no direct communication” with Lawrence police and that University of Illinois police acted as their “intermediary.”

But according to the emails obtained by ESPN, Leitner told Briggs and Kaeding in the same Sept. 27 email that he has “been working with [Illinois assistant athletic director for basketball] Joey Biggs with the University to set the interview up.”

In a statement to ESPN, Burson said, “No DIA staff had direct, substantive communication with Lawrence police regarding this matter. UIPD referred Joey Biggs to Lawrence police for the sole purpose of student-athlete scheduling. This aligns with his responsibilities as the team’s director of operations.”

A spokesperson for Lawrence police said in a statement: “While we recognize the interest regarding this case, the Lawrence Kansas Police Department has a legal obligation to not discuss cases already charged in District Court.” Leitner did not respond to a request for comment.

Whitman also said that his department was not able to get additional information from Lawrence police: “We asked LPD through [University of Illinois police] for something more concrete,” Whitman said at a news conference in December following Shannon’s arrest. “We asked to see a police report, we asked for updates with some frequency over the course of the weeks and months that followed, but nothing was forthcoming.

“Everything that we received was verbal, informal, it was light on details, it was unsubstantiated. It was unclear to us whether Lawrence authorities intended to pursue anything further, what additional information they were trying to obtain. We weren’t made aware of any specific charges that the folks in Lawrence were considering. … We didn’t have anything in writing, there was no written notice of allegations, no documentation. We didn’t have a police report.”

On Oct. 24, Briggs emailed Leitner asking for an update in Shannon’s case. Leitner responded the same day, saying, “Unfortunately I don’t have any update for you. I anticipate he either was charged or will be soon.” Leitner added that he had submitted DNA for analysis “but it could be some time before we have results.”

Leitner also carbon-copied Jennifer Tatum, an assistant district attorney in Douglas County, Kansas, to the October email exchange with Briggs, writing that Tatum “may be able to shed some light on where we are at with the charging process.” Tatum replied to the email the same day, saying, “I will be back with both of you on this soon.” The documents show no more responses on the email exchange.

A preliminary hearing in the criminal case against Shannon is scheduled for Feb. 23.

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