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Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Lauren Cook reaches plea deal

ESPN.com news services

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska volleyball star Lauren Cook will return to the No. 2-ranked Huskers after reaching an agreement with prosecutors that could wipe a felony traffic charge from her record.

The 20-year-old Cook apologized Tuesday for her role in an Oct. 30 traffic accident that left two people injured. She vowed to complete a one-year diversion program that includes community service, avoiding other run-ins with the law, and a promise not to drive.

"I truly am very sorry," Cook said at a news conference at her attorney's office. "I've let a lot of people down -- my parents, my teammates and the University of Nebraska. I've always worked hard for things in my life, and I'm going to work hard for this. I'm going to work hard to regain the trust, and hope that one day people accept my apology and be able to trust me again as a student, as an athlete and as a driver."

Cook, the daughter of Nebraska women's volleyball coach John Cook, was charged with leaving the scene of an injury accident. The felony count will be dismissed if she meets terms of the diversion agreement.

Had she been convicted on the felony charge, she faced up to five years in prison and the revocation of her driver's license for up to 15 years.

Lauren Cook sideswiped a motorcycle that was pulled off to the side of a Lincoln street. The motorcycle driver suffered a broken leg and his passenger had cuts.

Lauren Cook has had six speeding tickets since 2007.

Her attorney, Terry Dougherty, said prosecutors offered her the opportunity to participate in the pre-trial diversion program. He said he was confident she would start the program within a few days.

Lancaster County attorney Joe Kelly said she qualified for diversion because of her otherwise clean criminal record for non-traffic offenses. He said neither drugs nor alcohol were involved and that there was no evidence Cook was using her cell phone at the time of the accident.

Kelly said no one should assume Lauren Cook received preferential treatment because she's a high-profile volleyball player.

"You would anticipate folks would say that," he said. "All I can say is that she, by all intents and purposes, appeared to be eligible for pretrial diversion. We've honored those guidelines for that program since 1974. We try to run that program in an even-handed manner, whether it's a case involving someone like this or whether it's someone no one knows about."

Athletic director Tom Osborne said nothing in the university's student code of conduct or other regulations precluded a student in Cook's situation from playing once they are in the diversion program.

Osborne said he consulted with chancellor Harvey Perlman and other university officials about the situation. He said John Cook did not participate in the decision.

"We feel that no student at the university who has taken the steps that Lauren has taken, and has been charged with what she has been charged with, would be disallowed to participate in extracurricular activities," Osborne said. "We feel that, in view of the fact that she did sit out in last week's games, while the process worked itself forward, that she would be allowed to play."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.