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Monday, March 22, 2004
CU says it's 'determined to find the facts'

Associated Press

DENVER -- The woman whose lawsuit sparked the University of Colorado recruiting scandal leveled new accusations Monday, saying prostitutes were hired for recruits nearly a decade ago and the athletic department shrugged off allegations of assault by players and staff with slaps on the wrist.

The accusations are part of a motion to amend Lisa Simpson's original lawsuit and incorporate facts that have emerged from 26 depositions and hundreds of pages of documents that have become available since, including the claim by former CU place-kicker Katie Hnida that she was raped by a teammate.

In the court filing, Simpson says that prostitutes were sent to recruits' hotel rooms as far back as 1995, two years before an incident that induced a meeting between university officials and the Boulder County district attorney. It was in that early 1998 meeting that then-assistant district attorney Mary Keenan says she put the school "on notice" that it had a problem with its recruiting program.

Lisa Simon, a spokeswoman for Simpson, said the allegation from 1995 is something Simpson's lawyers plan to prove in court, but is not established through depositions or other materials that have already been released to the public.

The university would not comment on any specific allegation, but released a statement touting the steps it has already taken to address the scandal.

"As we have said several times over the last few weeks, we are determined to find the facts," university spokeswoman Michele Ames said in a written statement. She also pointed to several steps the school has taken to uncover those facts, like the independent panel charged with investigating the allegations.

The motion also says that an assistant coach was hired in 1999, and remains on the coaching staff, despite having pleaded guilty to third-degree assault for domestic battery.

Head coach Gary Barnett hired another assistant in March 2001 who, as a former player and student, was banned from campus for a series of incidents and arrests that included an assault of a female parking lot attendant. The motion alleges that assistant coach was arrested for driving while intoxicated, but only received a loss of pay as punishment from the football program.

Neither coach is identified in the motion.

"Since at least 1995, CU has had actual knowledge of and has been deliberately indifferent to known sexual harassment, sexual assaults and sexual discrimination against female students and other women caused by the practices of CU's Athletic Department and football program," Simpson's lawsuit reads.

All of this comes in a federal lawsuit Simpson has filed alleging the university violated Title IX protections by fostering an environment hostile to women. She says she was raped by several players and recruits at a party at her off-campus apartment in 2001.

Along with the committee established by the Board of Regents, Gov. Bill Owens has appointed state Attorney General Ken Salazar as a special prosecutor to investigate the seven sexual assault complaints leveled against CU football players since 1997.

Barnett has also been placed on paid administrative leave.

The Board of Regents' committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday to continue its investigation. The meeting will include a presentation by sexual assault victims' advocates as well as by university officials.

The commission hopes to present its findings and recommendations by April 30.