University angered by DA's accusations

Updated: January 29, 2004, 10:49 PM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- A prosecutor claims sex parties have been used to lure football recruits to the University of Colorado and police may have helped cover up problems that include the alleged rapes of three women.

In testimony given for a civil rights lawsuit against the school, Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan said the athletic department resisted demands to halt the parties. A campus police officer said one recruit told him sex was part of "what you get when you come to Colorado."

University officials called a late afternoon news conference to dispute the claims.

"The accusation is wrong, inaccurate and false," football coach Gary Barnett said. He and other school officials left without taking questions.

Gov. Bill Owens said he was shocked by the allegations and demanded a public accounting. He insisted the university take steps to reassure female students that it will not tolerate a climate of sexual misconduct.

"Women are not recruiting tools," Owens said.

Keenan's and the officer's depositions were released Thursday by the plaintiff in the lawsuit, one of three women who say they were raped by recruits or players during or after a 2001 off-campus party.

Keenan said the deposition "speaks for itself" and that she would not comment further.

The suit was filed by one of the alleged victims, former student Lisa Simpson, who has agreed to have her name used publicly. She accuses the football program of fostering an environment in which women routinely suffer sexual harassment.

In a Sept. 23, 2003, deposition with Simpson's attorney, Barnett said five or six of the men who were at the December 2001 party told him that Simpson handed them condoms before they went into a bedroom with four women.

"From that point on, it became group sex," Barnett said in the deposition.

He also said the players told him they put recruits and themselves in "a very inappropriate situation" involving alcohol and consensual sexual conduct.

Former Colorado athlete Monique Gillaspie, who said she was raped by two football players after the 2001 party, praised Owens' stance. She urged other women who "have fallen prey to CU football program misconduct" to step forward.

Gillaspie and her parents issued the statement through her lawyer.

Keenan investigated the case, but ended up charging four players with providing marijuana and alcohol to minors. She has said she decided against assault charges because the men believed they had been promised sex at the party, making it difficult to prove rape beyond a reasonable doubt.

In her deposition, Keenan said she met with athletic department officials after a woman reported being raped during a recruiting function in 1997. She said she met with officials again after the alleged 2001 attacks, and did not believe the university was taking her complaints seriously.

In a statement, university spokeswoman Pauline Hale said the school strongly disputes the claim.

Keenan also said Officer Dan Spicely, who acted as a liaison between the football program and Boulder police, might have told coaches and players to meet before the investigation began.

"It gave (coaches and players) a chance to cover it up," Keenan said.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner denied the allegation, saying there was no evidence Spicely interfered with the investigation.

In another deposition, campus police Officer Timothy Delaria described another 2001 party as "some kind of sex party for the recruits." He said recruits were shown a pornographic video and told that easy sex was a fringe benefit of playing at Colorado.

Delaria, discussing a police interview with a football recruit, said the recruit told officers, "They told us, you know, 'This is what you get when you come to Colorado.' "

The NCAA sets restrictions on entertaining recruits, requiring that entertainment be comparable to that of normal student life and not be excessive, spokeswoman Kay Hawes said. She said there is no set definition of excessive entertainment.

Hawes declined to say whether the NCAA was investigating allegations against the Colorado football program.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press