CHERRIES player Steve Cook has been acquitted of sexually assaulting a teenage girl.
Along with Brighton and Hove Albion players Lewis Dunk, Anton Rodgers and George Barker, Mr Cook was found not guilty at the Old Bailey of assaulting the 19-year-old in a Brighton hotel room.
Mr Cook, 22, Mr Rodgers, 20, Mr Dunk, 21, and Mr Barker, 21, had maintained their innocence throughout and all have now been cleared of voyeurism too.
Mr Cook had told the court he was "shocked" when he was first arrested, and denied exposing himself in the Jurys Inn room of Brighton and Hove Albion players Anton Rodgers and Ben Sampayo, or encouraging his then teammates to expose themselves.
The men faced a retrial after a jury failed to reach a verdict in February. In his evidence at the Old Bailey, Mr Cook told the jury he had joined other Albion players as they celebrated the club's victory in the Sussex Senior Cup on July 16, 2011.
After becoming separated from his teammates in a chip shop, he met up with them and a girl he said have never met before at Brighton Railway Station before walking to the nearby Jurys Inn Hotel.
He then went to a hotel room shared by two of his teammates where he said he bedded down on the floor of the hotel room while a young woman climbed into the bed between two other footballers.
He said he kept all his clothes on except for his trainers because he was not expecting to stay the whole night in the room. Rodgers's father – the Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, was among those watching the court proceedings.
Richard Barton, prosecuting had said the woman woke up at the Jury's Inn hotel to find her strapless dress pulled down and said she saw explicit pictures on Rodgers' mobile phone.
But despite forensic tests on all the players' phones, only one photograph was found on Barker's phone.
It showed the sleeping woman with shaving foam spelling out GB on her thigh. Barker was next to her doing a thumbs-up sign and smiling.
Another player, Leon Redwood, said he went into the room at night and sprayed the foam.
The woman was said to have ``told a pack of lies'' following the incident and agreed she lied to police and her employers but said she had been humiliated by the sportsmen.
She complained to police about the players six months later after getting into a volatile relationship with another player, Kazenga LuaLua.
He wound her up about her photographs being shown around the club and kidded her that a video would be put on YouTube.
But Police have been unable to find anyone at the club who had seen pictures of the woman.p She said she was not drunk and could remember nothing after taking a drink in the club.
But her friend said they had each drunk between 10 and 15 shots of alcohol and shared a bottle of wine.
Dunk was found not guilty of the voyeurism charge at an earlier hearing.
There were tears in the public gallery from the mothers and girlfriends of the footballers as the seven men and five women returned their verdicts.
The young sportsmen were released from the dock and wept in a group hug outside where they were comforted by their families.
AFC Bournemouth released a statement saying the club “is aware of today's verdict in the trial of defender Steve Cook and looks forward to Steve returning for pre-season training in June”.
It added: “After a difficult year for Steve, we hope he can now put everything behind him and concentrate on playing football for AFC Bournemouth.
“No further comment will be made on the matter.”