Former Dallas Cowboys player convicted of rape

Then-Dallas Cowboys defensive back C.J. Spillman was on the sidelines during the first half of a game against the Houston Texans in Arlington on Oct. 5, 2014. Spillman was convicted Thursday, June 30, 2016, of raping a woman about two weeks before this game
Then-Dallas Cowboys defensive back C.J. Spillman was on the sidelines during the first half of a game against the Houston Texans in Arlington on Oct. 5, 2014. Spillman was convicted Thursday, June 30, 2016, of raping a woman about two weeks before this game AP

A former Dallas Cowboys player was convicted Thursday of sexually assaulting a Chicago woman who flew to Texas to visit him at the Grapevine resort hotel where he was living.

C.J. Spillman, 30, could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. The punishment phase of the trial began Thursday and is scheduled to continue Friday. Spillman remains free on bond because he is eligible for probation, according to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors depicted Spillman as an entitled womanizer who was reluctant to pay child support for his three children but willing to spend thousands of dollars for a night in Las Vegas.

Spillman testified Thursday that his accuser, Mary, was acting like a “sports groupie,” a woman who will travel across the country to have sex and get pregnant with athletes or musicians “to generate income.”

Spillman told the jury that Mary climbed into bed with him and they started kissing, and a sexual encounter naturally grew from their contact. Mary testified that Spillman pinned her arms above her head and forced her to submit, humiliating her in the process.

Spillman, a six-year NFL player, was signed by the Cowboys on Sept. 1, 2014, after being cut by the San Francisco 49ers. Less than three weeks after he signed his Cowboys contract, Spillman bought a plane ticket for Mary, whom he had met only once in person.

The Star-Telegram does not usually identify accusers in sexual assault cases and agreed to use the pseudonym Mary for the woman and to use her mother’s first name only. Both women testified this week.

Spillman and Mary planned a weeklong visit at Spillman’s temporary home at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine.

Mary testified Tuesday that she wanted to cut her stay short after she discovered that Spillman was under a temporary restraining order sought by his former live-in girlfriend, the mother of his three children, who said he pulled a gun on her.

Spillman testified Thursday that Mary told him she needed to go home because she had to get back to work, not because she had become afraid of him. Spillman insisted that the restraining order stemmed from stress in his relationship linked to a proposed $500,000 pay cut by the 49ers.

“California is kind of expensive, especially when you’ve got three kids,” Spillman said.

Spillman testified that when his girlfriend filed the petition for the restraining order, she wanted to move from California back to their home state of Kentucky, and take their children with her.

Spillman testified that he did not see why he had to pay $12,000 a month in child support when his children were living in Kentucky, where the cost of living is much lower than in California. Spillman testified that he had to get an advance on his salary from the 49ers to pay his child support.

But Spillman thought it was normal to accumulate big bills in Las Vegas, according to his testimony.

“I have spent $20,000 in Vegas in one night but not all on my own,” Spillman said. “You go to Vegas with three other people and get a $20,000 bill, but when you divide it up, it’s only $5,000 each.”

Spillman was arguing with the mother of his children and having a casual sexual relationship with at least one other woman while he was pursuing Mary long-distance, according to testimony.

‘He said/she said’

In closing arguments, defense attorney Brian Salvant reminded jurors that prosecutors had told them what a good person Mary is and that she has the means to buy herself “nice things.”

“We all like nice things,” Salvant said. “But we don’t all travel great distances to be with someone we’ve only met once.”

Salvant characterized this case as a classic “he said/she said” story and said it was the jury’s job to decide whom they believed. But Salvant said it sounded to him like Spillman’s assessment was correct and Mary was a sports groupie.

“He was pursuing her,” Salvant said. “He was always upfront. She replied to him with one-word answers until she found out he was playing for the Dallas Cowboys.”

Grapevine police called Mary

Mary’s mother, Stephanie, sat three rows from jurors Thursday, gently rocking her daughter as attorneys completed their closing arguments.

Stephanie started testifying Wednesday afternoon and continued Thursday. She said that her daughter was 27 and that it really did not matter what she thought about her planned weeklong trip to visit Spillman because she was an adult, Stephanie said.

Then, Mary contacted her to say she was cutting her trip short. They talked while Mary was at the airport and after repeated questioning, Mary told her mother that she had been sexually assaulted, Stephanie testified.

“I called my husband, and I was hysterical,” Stephanie said. “He said he would Google to try to find someone to be with her.”

Stephanie said something playing on television reminded her of Gloria Allred, so she called the lawyer’s Los Angeles office, thinking that was a long shot.

“But someone from Allred’s office returned my call within 30 minutes,” Stephanie said.

Grapevine police contacted Mary later that day, Stephanie testified.

A week after the Grapevine police report surfaced, the New York Daily News reported that Spillman was accused of attempted rape in December 2013 in Santa Clara, Calif., while playing for the San Francisco 49ers.

That same week, Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones and coach Jason Garrett said the team had adopted zero tolerance on domestic violence.

The Cowboys did not re-sign Spillman after the 2014-15 season and he is not playing professional football.

The punishment phase of the trial is scheduled to continue Friday before visiting state District Judge Roger Towery.

Prosecutors are Allenna Bangs and Robert Huseman. The defense attorneys are Brian and Tonya Salvant.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3