'I was terrified,' accuser testifies in rape trial of Illinois basketball star Terrence Shannon Jr.

Jonathan Bullington, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Basketball

LAWRENCE, Kan. — It was an emotional second day in Terrence Shannon Jr.’s rape trial as his accuser took the witness stand and described for a Douglas County jury the night she said the Chicago native and University of Illinois men’s basketball standout penetrated her vagina with his finger while at a crowded bar near the University of Kansas campus.

“I was terrified,” the woman, now 19, told jurors, tears welling in her eyes. “I was scared and I was shocked.”

Shannon faces one count of rape or an alternative count of aggravated sexual battery, also a felony. He has denied the allegations, which stem from a September trip he and two others took to Lawrence to watch an Illini-Jayhawks football game. His NBA hopes — some prognosticators believe he could be a first-round pick in this month’s draft — hinge on the outcome of a trial that is scheduled to conclude two weeks before the NBA draft.

The woman spent close to two hours on the witness stand recounting the events of that night. Shannon, dressed in a dark blue suit and white collared shirt, appeared to stare ahead as she testified about an encounter she said started around 12:15 a.m. when she and her friend and roommate returned to the Jayhawk Cafe.

In a basement bar area called the Martini Room, the woman, then 18, said she had three sips of vodka and Red Bull, which she testified was her first drink of the night.

“I thought it would be a good time,” she said when asked why she went to the bar that night.

The room was hot and crowded and loud, she told jurors, and she wanted to leave. As she and her friend maneuvered through the masses, she said she saw a man wave her over to him. He was tall, she said, had different colored dreadlocks and wore a mustard-yellow shirt.

She thought he was cute, she told jurors, and with her friend’s encouragement, she went back in the room.

That’s when she said the man grabbed her and pulled her to him. She said she thought they would talk and exchange phone numbers or Snapchats. Instead, she said no words were exchanged. With a drink in one hand and a phone in the other, both arms pressed near her chest, she said she looked straight ahead as she felt the man’s hand move under her skirt to her butt.

“I was definitely uncomfortable,” she told jurors. “I don’t know why I didn’t (walk away). But I wish I did.”

Next, she said she felt his hand move her underwear to the side and a finger inside her for what she estimated to be no more than 10 seconds.

“I didn’t react,” she said. “All I did was stand there in shock.”

When his hand left, she said she pushed through the crowd to leave and to look for her friend. The two eventually left the bar. By then, she said she was too hysterical to drive.

Back at her apartment, she said she identified Shannon after searching online for photos of rosters for football and basketball teams at KU and Illinois. She did not immediately call police, she said, fighting back tears, “because I didn’t want to end up here.”


One of Shannon’s criminal defense attorneys, Tricia Bath, spent part of her cross-examination asking the woman about possible inconsistencies in her statements. For example, the woman told the jury Tuesday that she believed Shannon first grabbed her arm or wrist to pull her to him that night. But, Bath noted, the woman testified in a May preliminary hearing that he did not grab her arm or wrist. She also did not remember telling a nurse that he groped her vaginal area, despite telling jurors that such a groping did not take place.

Jury selection took place Monday. The 12 jurors and three alternates — eight men and seven women — were chosen after a lengthy jury-selection process in Judge Amy Hanley’s courtroom.

Shannon’s attorneys have appeared eager to conclude the trial before the NBA draft begins June 26.

Monday’s proceedings got off to a rocky start as one potential juror fainted from her chair. Other potential jurors and court deputies rushed to her aid, helping escort her to her feet and to the hallway, where she was seen by paramedics.

Prosecutor Ricardo Leal and Bath took turns posing questions of potential jurors, most centered on their understanding of the criminal justice system — did they understand, for example, that the state has the burden to prove Shannon’s guilt — and whether they felt they could make impartial decisions based on evidence and testimony alone.

Three were excused after an hour of questioning, apparently due to their stated negative views about police. Two potential jurors were later excused because of the nature of the alleged crime in the case; one said he had been a victim of a sexual assault, and the other said she did not feel she could be fair and impartial.

Two more were excused after disclosing that someone close to them had been accused of a serious crime.

More than a dozen said they had heard about a Douglas County case involving an Illini basketball player, but none said they knew Shannon when, at Bath’s request, he stood to face the potential jury pool.

Shannon’s attorneys previously said they have witnesses and video from the Martini Room that put the third-party defendant in the spot where the 18-year-old said Shannon was standing when she encountered him.

Police have not questioned this third-party defendant while investigating the reported rape, Shannon’s attorneys previously said.

Additionally, Shannon’s attorneys said the third-party defendant was accused by a different woman — also 18 — of touching her vagina outside her pants, without her consent, two weeks before the alleged Shannon incident, in the same location where Shannon’s accuser said she was assaulted. He was not charged in connection with that accusation.

Shannon’s legal team already scored a federal court victory earlier this year, persuading a judge to overturn his university suspension on the grounds that his extended absence from basketball (he’d missed six games at that point) violated his due process rights and potentially jeopardized millions of dollars from his NIL (name, image, likeness) contract and future earnings in the NBA.

A first-team All-Big Ten selection this season and last, the fifth-year guard guided the Illini to a Big Ten tournament championship — being named Most Outstanding Player in the process — and a trip to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight, where they were trounced by eventual champion Connecticut, 77-52.

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