Suit comes after criminal charges weren't filed

10/28/2003 - Colorado Buffaloes

DENVER -- Two years after a woman alleged she was gang-raped
by University of Colorado football players and recruits, court
documents suggest the men escaped charges because prosecutors
thought they had "third party consent" to have sex with the
drunken, sleeping woman.

The alleged assault by several players and recruits took place
at an off-campus party during a "recruiting weekend" intended to
persuade high school players to join the team.

Although prosecutors believed the woman's account, they decided
against filing charges because the men had been promised sex by a
player and a student who organized the party, according to a
lawsuit filed against the university by the woman.

"They had been built up by the players to believe that the
situation they were going into was specifically to provide them
with sex," Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan said in a
sworn statement included in a court filing Monday.

"Their mind-set coming into it was that it was consensual
because they had been told it had been set up for that very
purpose, and that's what was going to happen," Keenan's statement

The case caused a scandal and prompted some recruiting reforms
when it came to light in 2001, but the most serious criminal
charges to result from the party were against four players accused
of providing alcohol to minors.

The woman's lawsuit alleges the university fosters an
environment that encourages sexual harassment by enticing recruits
with promises of sex.

Plaintiff Lisa Simpson, 21, originally filed her case as "Jane
Doe" but later voluntarily dropped the pseudonym, saying she
wanted to set an example that sex assault victims don't need to
feel ashamed. She is still a student at CU.

In the suit, Simpson says a female student who is a tutor for
the athletic department arranged with a player to have a "girl's
night in" party at Simpson's apartment on Dec. 7, 2001, knowing
that players and recruits would show up later.

The lawsuit alleges that the tutor wanted the women to get drunk
so they would have sex with the players and recruits, who were
visiting the campus after CU won the Big 12 football championship.

Sometime after about 16 players and recruits arrived at the
party, Simpson went into a bedroom and lay down because she was
drunk and tired, the lawsuit says.

She awoke to find two recruits removing her clothes. The
recruits raped her, and after several other players and recruits
surrounded her bed in the dark, at least two forced her to perform
oral sex, according to a motion filed in the case this week.

Altogether, six to eight athletes were involved, the motion

Only an excerpt of Keenan's deposition was included in the court
filing, and her staff said she was unavailable to comment Tuesday.
University spokeswoman Pauline Hale said she couldn't comment
because the matter was in litigation.

In her deposition, Keenan said that to prosecute, she would have
to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the woman hadn't consented and
that the athletes knew there was a lack of consent.

"... It was my opinion, based on what I knew about the case,
that the recruits had third-party consent that had nothing to do
with Lisa Simpson but that would be taken into consideration in a
trial," her statement says.

The documents also quote campus police Lt. Michelle Irving as
saying she believed assistant coach E.J. "Doc" Kreis helped the
recruits and players agree on a story before they talked to police
about the incident.

Kreis, who now works at UCLA, didn't return a telephone call
requesting comment.

The filing also says head coach Gary Barnett continued to try to
sign one of the recruits, even after Irving and the campus police
chief told him of "overwhelming" evidence that the woman was

The coach got angry at the officers and accused them of being
out of line, the filing says, quoting from Irving's deposition.

The lawsuit alleges that the university failed to crack down on
its recruiting program after a 17-year-old Niwot High School
student said she was raped by either a football player or recruit
at a recruiting party in 1997.

One player was charged with providing alcohol to minors in that
case, and the district attorney's office warned school officials
they needed to reign in the recruiting program, the lawsuit says.

"We think this case is important in ways that go beyond
individual acts and individual harm, terrible as those are,"
Simpson's lawyer, Baine R. Kerr, said Tuesday.

"The case is about institutional reform, and it is reform in a
program and culture that is part of a university that is
symptomatic of problems elsewhere," he said.

After Simpson's case, the university imposed a 1 a.m. curfew on
recruits during campus visits and began requiring them to sign a
statement promising to adhere to behavior standards.

Simpson wants a judge to order CU to institute a
"zero-tolerance" sexual harassment policy and harassment
awareness training for all varsity athletes.