Wisconsin judge decides to split Alec Cook case into seven separate trials

The first trial will be on February 26

Former UW-Madison student Alec Cook will now face seven separate trials for 23 charges.

Cook is facing 12 sexual assault related charges from six women. In addition, Cook is facing charges from five more alleged victims (11 total). These charges include stalking, false imprisonment and disorderly conduct.

A previous judge decided Cook would have two separate trials, because the eleventh alleged victim didn't come forward with her claims of false imprisonment and disorderly conduct until late March.

Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Stephen Ehlke released his decision on Wednesday, which further separates the charges into six separate cases, meaning Cook will have seven trials total.

Ehlke said trying all of the cases at once could prejudice the jury.

According to Ehlke, separating the trials is necessary in order to ensure the prosecution proves all allegations occurred "beyond a reasonable doubt."

This decision comes after the prosecution's initial motion to unite all counts was denied and the defense responded with a request to completely sever the trials.

The prosecution's argument centered around the notion that in order for the jury to fully understand the case the charges need to be presented together.

A press release from the defense said Judge Ehlke did what was necessary to ensure Cook receives a fair trial.

"The careless yet unfounded words of a prosecutor prompted a frenzied firestorm of inaccurate news reports and social media hysteria wrongly depicting Alec Cook as a danger and campus menace, before he had even been formally charged," the defense said. "Judge Ehlke saw the unacceptable risk that Alec Cook could never get a fair trial on each claim in such a mega-trial."

According to the press release the defense is going to be challenging what they believe was the illegal search of Cook's residence last year.

The defense will also be working to have the trial moved to a different county in order to "try to reduce the risk of a jury tainted by the many unfounded accusations about Alec Cook conveyed on news reports and social media sites despite the lack of any proof of those earlier false attacks."

The first trial will begin on February 26 and will involve six charges including one count of second-degree sexual assault and use of force, three counts of third-degree sexual assault, one count of strangulation and suffocation and one count of false imprisonment.

Cook has been out bail since December but is banned from the UW-Madison campus.