Escort service link to be probed

Updated: May 21, 2004, 12:37 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- A woman who says a University of Colorado aide paid her former escort service thousands of dollars walked into a grand jury room Friday, the first indication criminal charges could be looming in the school's sordid recruiting scandal.

Pasha Cowan and her attorney said nothing to reporters before they entered the courtroom.

Cowan is a former manager of the Best Variety escort service, which was allegedly hired to perform at a Boulder-area hotel where Colorado football recruits are often housed during campus visits

Attorney General Ken Salazar, at the governor's request, is investigating whether criminal charges are warranted in a scandal that includes allegations of sexual assault and questions about the use of university funds. Ken Lane, a spokesman for the attorney general, refused to say whether a grand jury had been convened.

A criminal investigation would mean the scandal is at a pivotal stage. Last week, Salazar said no charges were warranted in any of nine alleged sexual assaults by football players or recruits, citing evidentiary concerns and the reluctance of the women to press the cases.

And this week, a Board of Regents investigative commission accused university officials of failing to oversee the athletics department but concluded they did not condone any misconduct. Some commission members complained they lacked the subpoena power necessary to get the answers they were looking for.

The commission instead urged the attorney general to look into the activities of Nathan Maxcey, a Colorado recruiting aide from June 2002 to July 2003.

According to the commission, three call girls for Best Variety say Maxcey paid them at least $2,000 in cash over a 45-day period "and arranged sex for other young men" at a hotel in Broomfield, outside Boulder.

Maxcey's duties included picking up recruits and checking them in at the hotel. Maxcey, who could not immediately be located for comment Friday, has repeatedly denied hiring escorts for players or recruits, saying any liaisons were for him.

A recent university audit found that Maxcey made nearly $1,200 worth of calls to an escort service and a chat line from his school-issued cell phone. He has repaid the university about $900.

According to the commission, the university provides a $30-per-day entertainment stipend to player-hosts for unstructured activities such as movies or bowling.

Director of football operations David Hansburg in February said Cowan told him about Maxcey's sexual liaisons during a call asking him for a job. According to Hansburg, Cowan said, "I'm not trying to blackmail you."

That same month, Steven Lower, president of Hardbodies Entertainment Inc., of Denver, said athletes at Colorado and universities around the country had been paying its strippers to entertain recruits for years. At the time, Lower said his strippers had been hired for Colorado recruits as recently as two weeks earlier.

On Friday, Lower said he was told by the regents' commission he would probably be subpoenaed in a grand jury investigation. Lower said investigators are interested in who paid for strippers at parties for football recruits.

"The coaches didn't pay for this, it didn't come from anything but just the guys pooling their money together," Lower said. "I think after 20 years, I can figure that out. You put 20 guys in a room and it's not hard to come up with $250. You can come up with what you need, whether it's food or strippers."

University President Elizabeth Hoffman is reviewing the commission report and plans to make recommendations to the regents by the end of the month. She is expected to decide on the future of football coach Gary Barnett, who has been suspended since Feb. 18 for remarks he made about two of the alleged assault victims.

The university is also conducting a separate, internal investigation.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press