Lawyer says DNA evidence clears client

Updated: February 21, 2004, 1:56 AM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- A lawyer for a University of Colorado football player said Friday that her client was a victim of racial profiling when police investigated him as a suspect in an alleged rape.

The player was a suspect in a 2002 rape allegation, but a DNA test showed he was not connected to the case, his lawyer, Nancy Holton, said.

The allegation is the latest to surface in a growing scandal at the university, where critics and alleged rape victims say sex and alcohol-fueled parties are used to lure top football recruits. Coach Gary Barnett, who has denied the accusations and defended his program, has been placed on administrative leave while an independent commission investigates.

"My heart goes out to the victim. Rape is a terrible thing, however I feel appalled that all the investigation had as a description of the possible perpetrator is that he was big and black," Holton said during a news conference.

She said the victim only remembers talking to two black men at a tavern and then waking up in her apartment with evidence that she had been assaulted.

Holton said a Boulder police detective called her and said her client had been cleared through a DNA test. She read a statement by her client.

Holton didn't identify a young man standing beside her during the news conference. He didn't speak and it wasn't clear if he was the football player.

Police spokeswoman Jana Petersen said the investigation is ongoing, and one of two suspects has been cleared, but she did not know their identities. A DNA test is pending for the second suspect.

She rejected the notion that police were guilty of racial profiling in the case.

"The Boulder Police Department does not engage in racial profiling," Petersen said. "We have strong training in that regard for our officers, and our investigation is based on information that the victim provides us."

Holton could not be reached for additional comment.

The rape allegation is one of six that have surfaced as CU's football recruiting has come under scrutiny. Three women are suing the school, alleging they were raped at or just after an off-campus party for recruits in December 2001.

Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan said in a deposition taken in one of the lawsuits and recently released that she believes the school uses sex and alcohol to lure recruits. She said she had put university officials on notice in 1998 that policies needed to change.

Barnett was placed on leave this week after publicly criticizing former place kicker Katie Hnida, who said she was raped by another player in 2000. He said the allegation was a surprise to him and that he wanted her on the team, but added that he believed she was a terrible player.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press