<
>

Escort services testify before Buffs grand jury

DENVER -- The University of Colorado recruiting scandal took
a dramatic turn Friday as a statewide grand jury convened for the
first time to hear testimony from a woman who says a school aide
handed over $2,000 in cash to a call girl service.

The grand jury investigation is the first indication criminal
charges may be filed in a scandal that has already led to sweeping
changes in the football recruiting program and could cost some
university officials their jobs.

Legal experts said they think investigators are trying to figure
out whether the money came from university funds.

"It is illegal to facilitate prostitution and it is probably
illegal to spend state money on prostitutes," said Craig
Silverman, a former Denver prosecutor who has been following the
case.

The grand jury met for 2 hours to hear testimony about
high-profile allegations surrounding the state's flagship school in
Boulder and will meet again June 11, bailiff Don Colaizzi said. One
of the three witnesses left with a coat over her head.

Among those testifying was Pasha Cowan, who has said Colorado
recruiting aide Nathan Maxcey paid her former escort service
hundreds of dollars. She said nothing to reporters outside the
grand jury room.

Cowan is a former manager of the Best Variety escort service,
which was allegedly hired to go to a Broomfield hotel where
football recruits are often housed during visits to the campus in
nearby Boulder.

Her attorney, Mark Johnson, later said his client has told
police and attorneys handling federal lawsuits against the school
that Maxcey hired escorts for football athletes.

"It wasn't a very difficult conclusion to draw that they were
football players -- young, about the right age, their conditioning
and the fact that Nathan Maxcey bragged (to Cowan) that he was in
the recruiting department," Johnson said told The Associated
Press.

Each call girl charged $250 per encounter, Johnson said.

"Either Cowan is a liar or Maxcey had a boat load of cash that
he was paying to an escort service when he was only making about
two grand a month," Johnson said. "It's not my job to sort out
the truth."

Maxcey did not return a message left at his parents' Texas home.
He has repeatedly denied hiring escorts for players or recruits,
saying any sexual liaisons were for him.

Attorney General Ken Salazar, at the governor's request, has
been investigating whether criminal charges are warranted in the
scandal, which includes allegations of sexual assault and questions
about the use of university funds.

Last week, Salazar decided against charges in nine alleged
assaults by football players or recruits, citing evidentiary
concerns and the reluctance of the women to go forward with the
cases. The assault allegations date to at least 1997.

Earlier this week, a Board of Regents investigative commission
concluded that university officials did not condone any misconduct
but repeatedly failed to properly oversee the athletics department.

The commission, which lacked subpoena power, also urged the
attorney general to look into the circumstances surrounding Maxcey,
who was a football recruiting aide from June 2002 to July 2003.

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

Maxcey's duties included picking up recruits and checking them
in at the hotel, the Omni Interlocken.

A recent university audit found 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 some $900.

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

That same month, Hardbodies Entertainment Inc. of Denver, said
athletes at Colorado and universities around the country had been
paying its strippers to entertain recruits for years. Company
president Steve Lower said then that 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 to appear before the grand jury.

Investigators, Lower said, 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."

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

University President Elizabeth Hoffman is reviewing the
commission report and plans to make recommendations to the regents
by the end of the month. Among other things, she is expected to
decide on the future of athletics director Dick Tharp and football
coach Gary Barnett, who has been suspended since Feb. 18 for
remarks he made in two of the alleged assaults.

Still pending are federal lawsuits filed by three women who say
they were raped by recruits or players at or just after an
off-campus party in December 2001. Boulder County prosecutor Mary
Keenan's allegation that the school uses sex and alcohol to entice
recruits -- made in a deposition for one of the suits -- helped spark
the scandal earlier this year.

The lawsuits accuse Colorado of failing to protect the women
under federal Title IX gender equity law. They seek unspecified
damages.