Former University of Wyoming football player Carl Granderson was sentenced to six months in jail Thursday after pleading no contest to two misdemeanors, sexual battery and unlawful contact.
Granderson was signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent this summer, but was immediately handcuffed and taken to Albany County’s jail after Thursday’s hearing.
He pleaded no contest to the lesser charges to avoid a felony trial that was set to begin Monday. Granderson was charged in February with third-degree sexual assault, which can carry a prison term of up to 10 years.
The conviction of sexual battery will not require Granderson to register as a sex offender, at least in Wyoming.
After Granderson’s jail term, he will be required to complete a year of supervised probation, which will be allowed to be transferred out-of-state.
In sentencing Granderson to jail, Albany County district court judge Tori Kricken rejected a plea agreement that called for just one year of unsupervised probation. She said that Granderson’s actions demonstrated “very little sense of responsibility.”
Becky Farley, a prosecutor for the Albany County Attorney’s Office, said the plea deal Kricken rejected had been “well put together and thought out.”
However, both victims in the case expressed frustration Thursday morning at the plea agreement, which they described as too lenient.
Both told the judge they felt Granderson should have been required to plead guilty.
“I feel like he’s not really getting a punishment,” one victim, D.H., said. “I just feel like there should be more that can be done to show that this is not OK.”
The other victim, identified as A.A., told the judge Thursday that the molestation by Granderson left her “empty, depressed and lost.”
The victims stem from an incident when A.A. and D.H. slept at Granderson’s apartment the night after the final UW football game of 2018.
Both said they were awoken to Granderson molesting them.
“I have never been so terrified in my life,” D.H. said through tears Thursday morning. “I sat there and looked for my keys because they had pepper spray on them, but they were nowhere to be found.”
The victims, both student-athletes at UW, expressed frustration at how the university handled the allegations against Granderson.
A.A. said she felt “rejected by the administration of the university” and said university leaders initially treated Granderson “like he was the victim.”
“I was constantly getting bullied by members of the football team, all of whom thought it was OK to call me a ‘ho’ and ‘slut’ to my face,” she said.
UW Acting President Neil Theobald said in a Thursday statement that “the university has great sympathy and support for the victims in this case, and I want to state unequivocally that UW does not tolerate bullying and harassment of students who report sexual misconduct.”
“Everyone at the University of Wyoming recognizes the importance of sexual assault prevention and enforcement,” he said. “We are dedicating significant additional resources, including four new staff positions in our NO MORE campaign, to prevent and respond to sexual assaults. One of those new positions will be housed in the Department of Athletics.”
The two women reported the incident the day after the molestation. However, charges were not filed until February.
Once charges were filed, university officials largely distanced themselves from the Granderson.
“The sexual assault charges recently filed against Carl Granderson are serious, and the allegations are troubling,” UW head coach Craig Bohl said in a February press release. “I want to assure the people of Wyoming that we hold our young men to the highest of standards, and this alleged behavior is unacceptable.”
A.A. also said that she was “told by the coach’s wife that I might as well transfer because I would be ‘slut-shamed.’” She did not name the coach whose wife allegedly made that comment.
“We knew from the beginning that we would have to fight because (Granderson’s) name on our campus has status,” D.H. said.
Before sentencing, Granderson’s attorney, Megan Overmann Goetz, read a statement from one of Granderson’s coaches, who expressed support for Granderson and said he was “the type of young man that a coach dreams of being able to work with.”
Both of Granderson’s victims said they suffered significant mental health issues after the molestation.
“I eventually started to self-harm and was hospitalized in March for depression, suicidal thoughts and suicidal tendencies,” A.A. said. “Of course, the football players found out and would joke about how I almost died over Carl.”
D.H. said she’s dealt with severe panic attacks since the incident.
“I was not emotionally right in the head, and I’m still not,” she said. “One single night caused a lifetime of trauma. (Granderson) took my pride my happiness and my optimism.”
Both women spoke through tears at Thursday’s sentencing. Both paused a few times, struggling to continue speaking as they cried.
“I want to congratulate you, Carl Granderson, for sexually assaulting two young freshmen and getting a slap on the wrist,” A.A. said when it appeared the defendant was likely to be sentenced to probation.
UW track star Ja’la Henderson, who was Granderson’s girlfriend around the time of the molestation, also expressed support for the defendant at his sentencing.
She said that the victims’ allegations “don’t make sense to me” and she felt the victims had “malicious intent.”
“He’s never been accused of anything like this until he had the potential for being an NFL draft pick,” Henderson said. “He’s always been a good person to me. He was raised in a good household and I just don’t think he’s capable of anything like this.”
At sentencing, Kricken also ordered Granderson to pay $3,088 in restitution to A.A. and $1,204 to D.H.
Before Granderson was charged with sexual assault, the defensive end was widely expected to be highest drafted football player out of UW in the 2019 NFL Draft.
He did become the Saints’ highest paid undrafted free agent this spring, earning a $85,000 contract.