Recent civil lawsuit causes reexamination

Updated: February 6, 2004, 1:19 AM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan is re-examining allegations stemming from a 2001 party for University of Colorado football recruits where a woman claims she was raped.

Keenan, who initially decided not to file sexual assault charges, said Thursday that three investigators will look into items revealed by a lawsuit filed in connection to a sexual assault.

Keenan didn't elaborate further in a short statement released by the county. She didn't return a call from The Associated Press Thursday night.

Three women are suing the university, claiming they were raped during or after an off-campus party for football recruits in December 2001. A deposition taken in a lawsuit by Lisa Simpson and released Thursday quotes a former CU athletic official as saying that football coach Gary Barnett was concerned that not taking recruits to parties would put the school's football program at a competitive disadvantage.

Bob Chichester, a former senior associate athletic director, said that he had numerous discussions with Barnett about the school's recruiting techniques following the December 2001 party.

Barnett, according to Chichester's deposition, said that social parties for recruits occur at universities across the country.

"If (players) weren't taking (recruits) out and partying, that it would be a recruiting disadvantage," Chichester said. "And if alcohol happened to be there, Coach Barnett never really voiced an opinion to me that that was objectionable."

Simpson's lawyer released several depositions last week, and university officials distributed more this week to present other sides.

The documents included testimony from Keenan, who said she believes CU uses sex and parties to entice football recruits. Gov. Bill Owens last week expressed outrage and called for an independent investigation into the school's policies.

CU President Elizabeth Hoffman called a special board of regents' meeting for Friday to discuss the scandal.

The lawsuits accuse the university of violating federal gender equity rules by fostering a hostile environment.

Barnett and athletic director Dick Tharp have angrily denied the allegations. Barnett said he imposes a strict curfew for recruits and makes hosts promise not to expose them to questionable behavior.

In his deposition, however, Chichester said Barnett indicated he didn't know what happened during recruiting visits and that the coach could have taken a stronger lead in discouraging such activities.

"I felt if the head coach doesn't know what's going on with recruiting activities, he has a responsibility to know generally what's going on and to set the tone and the climate, and I didn't get a sense that Coach Barnett was committed to that," Chichester said.

In her deposition, also released Thursday, Simpson said she was intoxicated and remembered only fragments of what went on at the party. She said she fell asleep on her bed, then remembers being surrounded by unclothed men and recognizing only one. At least two groped and sexually assaulted her, she said.

"I remember trying to get away and I crawled toward the back of the bed, and I just remember being surrounded and being scared, and I was just petrified," she said in the deposition.

A football player who attended the party, however, said in his deposition that Simpson handed out condoms, never went to sleep and seemed to be an active participant in certain sexual activity.

The player, whose name was blacked out in court documents, said had he thought Simpson was being raped by the partygoers, "I would have pulled them off," he said. "I feel extremely strongly about that."

The player, who said he lost his scholarship after the party, expressed shock at the allegations. He said recruits "very, very rarely" had sex during campus visits.

Four football players who attended the party had their scholarships revoked in 2002.

Simpson reported she was raped soon after the party. Keenan decided against criminal sexual assault charges, citing the difficulty of prosecuting date rape allegations. Four players were charged with providing alcohol or marijuana to minors.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press