Craig Carter

The criminal case against a former University of Arizona assistant track and field coach accused of assaulting and stalking one of his athletes became more complicated Tuesday, when a Pima County judge granted a motion to sever the charges against him.

This means that prosecutors cannot introduce evidence of Craig Carter’s alleged assault against thrower Baillie Gibson during Carter’s March trial on charges of felony stalking and interference with or disruption of an educational institution.

Gibson told police that in April 2015, Carter held a box cutter to her throat while choking her with his other hand. Over the next week, Carter stalked and threatened Gibson and ultimately tried to drag her out of a UA classroom in front of witnesses. Phone records show that between April 26 and May 1, Carter sent Gibson 57 text messages and emails, several of which contained threats, according to court documents.

While Carter is alleging that the two were involved in a years-long sexual relationship, Gibson says he took compromising photos of her in 2012 and forced her into a sexual relationship by threatening to expose the photos.

During an interview with UA police, Carter waived his Miranda rights and admitted to assaulting Gibson, as well as sending her threatening text messages and emails, according to the investigative report.

In May 2015, Carter was charged with aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, domestic-violence-related stalking and disruption of an educational institution — all felonies. Seven months later, Carter was indicted on related charges of violating a restraining order against one of Gibson’s teammates. No trial date has been set in that case, but in October, Carter turned down a plea deal that would’ve covered both cases against him. The agreement offered him a sentence of one to 3.75 years in prison. At the time he rejected the deal, Carter was facing up to 60 years in prison if convicted on all charges in both cases.

In January, Carter’s attorney, Dan Cooper, filed a motion to sever the assault and stalking charges, saying that none of the evidence of stalking — including text messages, emails, videos or incidents at Gibson’s home — is relevant to the assault counts and not admissible in the case.

“What took place after the assaults are wholly distinct and separate events,” the motion says. “The offenses are not alike nor of similar character.”

On Tuesday, Pima County Superior Court Judge Teresa Godoy sided with Carter and granted the motion, according to a court spokeswoman.

The stalking and disruption of an educational institution charges will be addressed during Carter’s March 27 trial, which is scheduled to last 10 days. A trial date has not yet been set for the two aggravated assault charges.

“The victim is shocked and disappointed,” Gibson’s attorney, Lynne Cadigan, told the Star. “Why would any victim come forward if they’re subjected to this indignity?”

Gibson will now have to testify in two trials for incidents that happened over a 10-day span, Cadigan said, adding that Godoy’s decision shows disrespect for the victim.

"If this was someone from the south side who threatened and attacked his girlfriend two years ago, he would be in jail two years ago," Cadigan said. "Why does this UA coach deserve special treatment?"

Gibson filed a lawsuit in late 2015 against Carter and the UA, saying that the school failed to protect her from repeated rapes by Carter. Carter responded to the suit by filing a defamation suit against Gibson and Cadigan.

Because Carter was employed by the UA at the time of the alleged events, the state is required to pay for his defense in the civil suit. As of Dec. 31, Carter’s attorney, John Munger, had billed $750,453 to taxpayers. In November, the UA opted out of its representation by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and hired private Tucson firm Rusing, Lopez & Lizardi to represent the university. Between Nov. 9 and Dec. 20, that firm had billed $68,978 in legal fees for their work, according to the Arizona Department of Administration.

However, the state’s risk management division is paying for Carter’s defense under a reservation of rights, meaning that if he’s convicted on criminal charges, the state can withdraw his defense, said Megan Rose, an ADOA spokeswoman.

Carter’s cases in Pima County Superior Court are only a portion of the UA athletic department’s legal woes, as the school is currently facing two federal lawsuits involving a former running back Orlando Bradford’s admitted abuse of women and a multimillion-dollar sexual harassment and hostile work environment claim filed by ex-football coach Rich Rodriguez’s former assistant.

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191.

I'm a government watchdog reporter, covering public safety policy and family issues.