Douglas County jury finds former Illinois basketball player not guilty of rape

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Terrence Shannon, center, hugs one of his supporters after he was acquitted of a rape charge on June 13, 2023, in Douglas County District Court.

Updated at 4:50 p.m. Thursday, June 13

A Douglas County jury on Thursday acquitted a college basketball star of rape after deliberating for less than two hours.

After the jury was dismissed the courtroom erupted in cheers and high fives as the former Illinois player, Terrence Shannon, hugged members of his family and other supporters. His attorneys, speaking outside the courthouse, said that Shannon was owed an apology for having endured the ordeal based on what they had described as the flimsiest of evidence.

“He took a lot of ridicule from the court of public opinion, but now that the jury of his peers have spoken, I think everyone owes him an apology,” his Chicago-based attorney Mark Sutter said.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Terrence Shannon Jr. hugs his mother after he was acquitted of a rape charge on June 13, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

Before heading into deliberations, jurors heard Shannon testify in his own defense that he had never met the woman who accused him or touched her in any way. In closing arguments, jurors heard the state depict Shannon as an entitled abuser while his attorneys depicted the accuser as possibly money-hungry and opportunistic.

The defense painted the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office as misguided in bringing a rape case against someone with so little evidence. The jury apparently agreed.

The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon after hearing Shannon testify earlier in the day that he had never seen the woman who had accused him until proceedings in the case were well underway.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Terrence Shannon Jr. is sworn in to testifiy at his rape trial on June 13, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

Shannon, 23, of Champaign, Illinois, was charged in Douglas County District Court with one felony count of rape or in the alternative one felony count of aggravated sexual battery. The jury determined that neither had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Shannon took the stand at the end of a four-day trial and said he was in Kansas on Sept. 8-9, 2023, after attending a football game between Illinois and the University of Kansas. He said that after the game he met up with several KU basketball players at their dorm, McCarthy Hall.

Shannon said he, his two roommates from Illinois and a few KU players went to the Jayhawk Cafe, 1340 Ohio St., around 11 p.m. and drank in the Martini Room until the bar closed. He said he had only a few drinks throughout the evening and that he was not so drunk that he couldn’t remember the night.

Shannon’s attorney, Tricia Bath, asked him if he knew he was in a position where “all eyes were on” him.

Shannon said that was the case. Ever since high school he thought he had a real shot at going to the NBA and since then he has felt always under scrutiny, he said. He said he hoped to be selected for the NBA in the first two rounds of the draft later this month.

He knew that he and the other players at the bar were the center of attention on the night in question, he said.

Bath then presented a photo of the bar room where a then 18-year-old woman had accused Shannon of waving her over to him, pulling her through the crowd, grabbing her buttocks and sexually assaulting her under her skirt. She asked Shannon to show the jury where in the photo he was standing when those things happened.

“No, I cannot. I never did that,” Shannon said. “That did not happen.”

He said that he had no such interaction with a woman that night and that he does not remember ever seeing the woman at all at the bar.

Bath asked if he would ever do something “stupid” like that especially with the goal of reaching the NBA so close at hand, to which Shannon responded “no.”

“It would kill my dreams,” he said.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Terrence Shannon Jr. demonstrates his 6’7″ wingspan during his testimony at his rape trial on June 13, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

He added that he would never treat a woman that way because someone close to him had been raped, and knowledge of that experience has stayed with him.

Shannon said he learned of the rape allegations weeks later and that it was alleged then that the incident had happened in a bathroom. A few weeks after that he was served a warrant to collect his DNA. He said he was confused because the warrant he received had misspelled his name.

“I thought maybe it was the wrong person because my name was spelled wrong,” Shannon said.

He said he first saw the woman who had accused him of rape in May of 2024 at his preliminary hearing.

Prior to Shannon’s testimony, assistant coach for the University of Illinois Timothy Anderson testified that he has known Shannon since Shannon was in the eighth grade and, through tears, he said that he couldn’t believe the allegations.

After Shannon’s testimony, Senior Assistant District Attorney Ricardo Leal delivered closing arguments and said that Shannon was a person accustomed to getting what he wanted. He said that Shannon’s renown had earned him accommodations from his university in the form of scholarships, free clothes and food, and even a graduate assistant who was assigned as his personal chauffeur to get to and from Kansas.

“No one is disputing the work he has put in, but at this point, he gets what he wants,” Leal said.

On the night in question, Shannon wanted that woman, and Shannon gets what he wants even if he doesn’t ask for it, Leal told the jury.

Shannon’s attorney Sutter said in closing arguments that he was glad to not live in Kansas because he would be in fear of a prosecutor’s office that would charge a man with rape with so little evidence.

“Those pursuing this case need to be called out,” Sutter said.

He said he was surprised that the District Attorney’s Office even filed the charge after Lawrence Police conducted such an underwhelming investigation. Sutter then attacked Lawrence Police Detective Joshua Leitner, repeatedly saying that Leitner made little effort to investigate and made no effort to find who the true culprit was.

Sutter said that police should have been investigating former KU basketball recruit Arterio Morris. He said Morris was accused of a similar act just weeks prior in the exact same location, and the victim in that case had the same body type and hair color as the victim in Shannon’s case.

Though he was accused, Morris was never charged with any such incident.

Sutter asked what was more believable, Shannon coming as a guest to Kansas and committing this crime or someone who had already gotten away with it once?

As the Journal-World reported, Morris has not been charged with a crime in connection with the alleged assault at the bar on Aug. 26, 2023. He was charged with rape in connection with that alleged victim for an incident said to have happened later that night, but those charges were dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office for insufficient evidence.

Sutter told the jury that the state’s expert from the KBI said that the woman should have been covered in DNA, but the KBI found only trace amounts that were not enough to be tested. Sutter added that an independent expert hired by the defense reviewed those findings and, using different standards, determined there was male DNA on the woman’s body that was not Shannon’s.

He said the lack of DNA should have been a red flag for investigators and prosecutors but that both had already concluded Shannon was a suspect before the KBI results had been returned.

Sutter then pointed to a few text messages that the woman had sent to her friends after news broke that Shannon had been charged and said that the woman may have been motivated by money knowing that Shannon was an NBA prospect. The messages were shown in court.

“Was this a setup?” Sutter said.

A friend had shared a link in a group chat with the woman to a news story about the charges and texted “you got him,” and the woman replied “yes sir finally” with the “praise” emoji. Then a third friend texted “got his ass” with a double emoji of a smiley face with dollar signs in its eyes and a green money tongue.

“They could have used the scales emoji or the prayer sign … But they used the dollar sign. Hungry for money,” Sutter said.

Sutter said that Shannon had too much to risk, and multiple character witnesses who testified painted a picture of a shy, reserved and responsible young man.

“He wouldn’t throw it all away for some random girl in Kansas,” Sutter said.

Shannon had remained free on a $50,000 bond. His case has been followed by regional news outlets as he is expected to be a top NBA draft pick later this month.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Left to right, attorneys Mark Sutter and Tricia Bath along with their client Terrence Shannon Jr. listen as the not guilty verdict was read on June 13, 2024, in Douglas County District Court. The jury returned a verdict after only 90 minutes of deliberations on a rape charge alleged to have a happened in September 2023.

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