Former Northwestern student pleads not guilty to criminal sexual assault, battery

Cameron Cook, Assistant Campus Editor

Former Northwestern student Nicholas Nelson, 22, pleaded not guilty to at least three counts of battery and sexual assault Wednesday.

The charges follow events that occured when Nelson attended a party in February, according to Evanston police Cmdr. Ryan Glew. A female Northwestern student attending the same party who said she had been friends with Nelson for “several years” told police Nelson sexually assaulted her at the party.

The woman said she remembered Nelson assaulting and choking her, and her injuries were consistent with sexual assault and strangulation, Glew said.

The woman filed a Title IX report with the University, which prompted an investigation by the University’s Office of Equity. The University said in a statement that Nelson, a former McCormick junior, is no longer a student after the investigation of the incident resulted in his expulsion.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not initially find probable cause for assault. However, following further police investigation, Nelson was arrested on Oct. 31 and charged with sexual assault and battery, Glew said.

Nelson’s bail was set to $500,000, and he was released on an electronic monitor after posting $50,000, said Barry Spector, a lawyer who represents the female Northwestern student who represents the female Northwestern student. He was indicted by a grand jury at the Skokie Municipal Courthouse on Nov. 20 on counts of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated battery and asked to return Wednesday.

Nelson’s attorney Steven Fine on Wednesday informed Judge Aleksandra Gillespie that Nelson would be pleading not guilty, and requested changes to the terms of Nelson’s bail — terms Gillespie said she set.

Fine requested that Nelson be able to seek employment in Palatine, Illinois where he currently lives, given that he was required to leave his job as a pizza delivery driver in Evanston.

Gillespie suggested Nelson set up an interview with a prospective employer before requesting clearance to work, although Fine made it clear that Nelson was waiting for the court’s permission to seek employment.

Nelson will likely appear in court again on Dec. 18.

Fine also requested that Nelson be allowed to go home to Minnesota to see his family over the holidays.

Spector said the not-guilty plea was “no surprise at all” and that Wednesday’s proceedings were “completely routine.”

Both Nelson and Fine declined to comment.

This story was updated just before midnight on Wednesday with comments from Barry Spector.

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