Hennepin County, Minn., officials have dropped felony domestic assault charges against Dante Cunningham, clearing the former Minnesota Timberwolves forward of wrongdoing in incidents that resulted in arrests back in April.
"Based on further investigation, there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt for the charged offense," Hennepin County prosecutors said Monday in a statement dismissing the charges, according to Marino Eccher and Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.
Cunningham, 27, is glad to be vindicated, and to have the harrowing four-month ordeal behind him.
"In the deepest part of my heart, I knew what happened. I knew the situation and I knew I was going to be cleared," Cunningham told Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press on Monday. "I was hoping that all would've been done before the season ended. But God has a plan and here I am today and just ready to go forward."
Cunningham was arrested April 3 on suspicion of domestic assault and accused of slamming his then-girlfriend against the wall and choking her "for about 15 to 20 seconds" after a late-night dispute. He was arrested again three days later amid accusations that he'd made "terroristic threats" via text message to the woman, who had secured an order of protection against the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward. No charges resulted from the second arrest.
With authorities' investigations continuing and Cunningham free after posting bond, he returned to the Timberwolves, who declined any sort of punishment pending the result of the legal process and reinserted him into the lineup. Not all Minnesota fans were pleased to see Cunningham back in uniform, though.
"I can remember walking into the locker room at halftime and at the end of the game looking up to my right, there was a guy there," Cunningham told the AP. "Every time he would yell, 'Cunningham, I can't believe you! You're this, you're that.' It really hurt. It's just what it was at the time. It is what it is now. Here we are."
Where Cunningham goes from here remains to be seen. He's an unrestricted free agent, having come to the end of the three-year, $6.27 million contract he signed with the Memphis Grizzlies in the summer of 2011 before being traded to the Wolves for shooting guard Wayne Ellington in July 2012. He averaged 7.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and just under an assist and a block in 22.6 minutes per game over two seasons in Minnesota, showing a capacity to be an energetic helper on the boards and the defensive end off the bench for Rick Adelman's teams.
Teams have already done the lion's share of their roster-building at this stage of the offseason, but now that the charges that hung over Cunningham's head have been dropped, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team looking for some frontcourt depth and versatility take a veteran's minimum flier on the Villanova product. That would represent a paycut for Cunningham, but after four months of uncertainty surrounding his future and his freedom, it'd probably still sound like a pretty solid deal.
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