Rape trial of former University of Illinois basketball player begins; defense emphasizes presence of former KU basketball team member at bar scene | News, Sports, Jobs

Photo of: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Former Illinois State basketball player Terrence Edward Shannon at his trial in Douglas County District Court on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.

A Douglas County jury heard opening arguments and victim testimony Tuesday morning in the trial of a former University of Illinois star basketball player accused of raping a woman at a Lawrence bar.

Illinois player Terrence Edward Shannon, 23, of Champaign, Illinois, is charged in Douglas County District Court with one count of aggravated rape or, alternatively, aggravated sexual assault, according to charging documents. The incident allegedly occurred on Sept. 9, 2023, at the Jayhawk Cafe, 1340 Ohio St., in the Martini Room, while Shannon was in Kansas to attend a KU football game against Illinois.

The woman, now 19, testified Tuesday that she attended the same football game as Shannon earlier that day, but didn’t meet him at the bar until late that evening. She said she and her friend went to the bar hoping to meet some friends and that she only had a few sips of a vodka cocktail over the course of the evening.

She said she was overstimulated by the crowded bar and she and her friend, who was her roommate, were about to leave the bar when Shannon waved at her.

“I thought he was cute and thought (my boyfriend) didn’t want to leave yet,” the woman testified.

Her friend told her to talk to the man, which she did. She went back into the bar and Shannon was just a few feet away and she recognized former KU basketball player Kevin McCullar standing next to Shannon. She said there was also another woman dancing very close to Shannon. They were all standing in a corner where the bar backed up against the wall near the exit, she said.

She said as she was fighting her way through the crowd, Shannon reached out and grabbed her somewhere on the arm, as her hands were full with her phone and drink. She said Shannon pushed her against the wall next to him and moved his hand down to her butt, then under her skirt and underwear. He then sexually assaulted the woman.

When Assistant District Attorney Samantha Foster asked the woman if she wanted Shannon to do that, she said “no.”

“I was terrified. I was scared. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do,” the woman said.

She said it ended when Shannon pulled his hand away and she turned and walked toward the door. She reconnected with her friend and tried to tell her what happened, but it was too loud and her friend didn’t understand what happened. Her friend insisted on saying goodbye to a friend at the bar and the woman waited in a hallway until her friend returned and they left.

“I was still scared. I didn’t know what had happened at that point,” the woman said.

The woman and her friend went back home, where the woman told her story to three people in the house. She began to ask herself, “Who did this to me?”

She remembered that Shannon was dating a KU basketball player and checked the rosters of the KU football and basketball players, but could not find Shannon. Then she remembered the Kansas-Illinois football game the night before and checked the rosters of the Illinois players.

“Then I looked at the basketball team and he was the first one to show up. He had dreadlocks in different colors and exactly the same face,” the woman said.

She said she then searched online to find out if what had happened to her was even a crime, to what extent, and how she could file a report. The next day, she reported the incident to police and went to Lawrence Hospital to be examined for sexual assault.

In his opening statements, Foster said the state’s evidence would rely on the girl’s testimony because DNA results from the woman’s sexual abuse test were inconclusive and there were no eyewitnesses to the abuse.

“(She) will tell you how eye contact across a bar led to a wave, which in turn led to her body being abused,” Foster said.

Shannon’s defense attorney, Tricia Bath of Leawood, said the woman’s statements in her police testimony and her witness statements were largely consistent, with the exception of a few key details that will come to light during the trial.

Bath also argued that given the size of Shannon and the other “large” men in question, the small area where the incident allegedly occurred would not be large enough to accommodate so many people.

She said with so many people there, it could have been anyone else. The defense will present surveillance video showing how busy that area was on the night in question. In its opening arguments, the defense specifically highlighted the presence of former KU basketball team member Arterio Morris. Bath said Morris — whom she identified by name in court — was accused of a similar act with another woman at the same location in the bar just two weeks earlier, but the woman in that incident was wearing long pants and the groping is believed to have occurred outside of the woman’s clothing.

Morris, 21, of Dallas, was eventually charged with rape in connection with an incident in August. That charge led to Morris’ dismissal from the men’s basketball team. However, that charge was later dropped due to insufficient evidence, the Journal-World reported.

Bath said Shannon’s best defense is that he is not known among his peers as the type of person who would do such a thing. She said he has competed for the NBA his entire life and had a real chance to get there. She said he has been around numerous KU players who have been the center of attention.

“He was standing next to Kevin McCullar,” Bath said. “He knew all eyes were on him.”

The trial is scheduled to last until Thursday. The courtroom is about half full with media representatives, court personnel and supporters of Shannon. He is currently free on $50,000 bail.