No charges yet in arrest of Missouri women's basketball players

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 | 9:36 p.m. CST; updated 11:51 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 15, 2009

COLUMBIA — The Boone County Prosecutor's office is still deciding whether to pursue charges against two Missouri women's basketball players, according to Ryan Haigh, an assistant prosecutor who said he has been assigned to the case.

Haigh said the case is still under review and no official charges have been filed against Tigers players Jessra Johnson and Amanda Hanneman, who were arrested early Friday morning on suspicion of third-degree assault. Columbia police say the players were involved in a fight with Missouri male cheerleader Justin Short sometime around 2 a.m. Friday at his apartment at 36 N. Cedar Lake Drive.

Hanneman and Johnson told police they intervened in an altercation between Short and his female roommate, and the players admitted to pushing and hitting Short, who was taken to University Hospital with what police described as a swollen nose and an eye abrasion. Accounts given to the police by several witnesses vary, but some say that there was a physical altercation between Short and his female roommate. 

Haigh said he is in the process of gathering witnesses' accounts and other information. Betsy Hanneman, the mother of Amanda Hanneman, said she does not know if her daughter has spoken with Haigh about the fight. Amanda Hanneman's attorney, Andrew Popplewell, said that he has entered a not guilty plea with the prosecutor's office. 

“With finals this week, we are still trying to get everybody in here,” Haigh said. “All evidence matters.”

Kurt Hanneman, the father of Amanda Hanneman, said he had heard that Short had decided to not pursue charges against the players, but he did not say who gave him that information. Popplewell said he did not know if Short had dropped charges.

"We're hoping they don't press charges," Popplewell said. "But if that's what they decide to do, we're prepared."

Haigh would not confirm that Short had asked the prosecuting office to drop the charges. Short sent Missourian reporters a text message saying he has no comment.

“We don’t know who the victim is at this point,” Haigh said, adding that more information needs to be gathered. Popplewell said he is also speaking with witnesses in the case. 

An arraignment date for Hanneman and Johnson has been set for Jan. 6.

Missouri women's basketball coach Cindy Stein has indefinitely suspended Hanneman and Johnson from the team, and, according to the MU Athletics Department, Short has been suspended from cheering at Missouri events.

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