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Monday, December 13, 2004
Ex-soccer player fed up with legal 'guerrilla warfare'

Associated Press

DENVER -- A former University of Colorado soccer player dropped her federal lawsuit against the school Monday, saying she could no longer endure the legal "guerrilla warfare" in a case at the heart of the sex-and-recruiting scandal surrounding the football team.

Monique Gillaspie, 21, filed the suit in January, accusing the athletic department of retaliating against her after she talked to police about a 2001 off-campus football recruiting party where two other women say they were raped.

She said she was sexually assaulted by two football players after the party but did not report it because she feared the players and thought it would worsen her problems at school. Gillaspie, who at the time was the only black player on the team, also claimed the department ignored her complaints of racial discrimination by her coach and teammates.

"I want to make very clear that my decision to terminate this litigation should not be interpreted as a retraction of what I have identified as having happened to me and others while a student-athlete at CU," she said.

She said she believed CU still has "serious problems" with racial diversity in the student body, faculty, coaching staff and administration. She declined further comment beyond a written statement.

In an interview from her home in Long Beach, Calif., Gillaspie's mother, Susan Gillaspie, said the family stands behind the allegations, but believed the university's attorneys were engaging in personal attacks. She also said no CU official had ever contacted the family to discuss the allegations, even before the lawsuit was filed.

"Compensation was never an issue," she said. "They have a program that does not value diversity. They're only interested in one thing and that is their football program, their cash cow."

Monique Gillaspie had been scheduled to give a deposition Monday. She said she planned to testify when the other lawsuit comes to trial next spring.

CU spokesman Ray Gomez said the university was prepared to go to trial.

"While we looked forward to our day in court, we are relieved that the defendant has chosen to walk away from this case without any compensation," he said.

He denied the Gillaspies' allegations of "guerrilla warfare."

"We have sought only to mount a vigorous and ethical defense against charges we believe to be baseless," he said.

Thomas Rice, an attorney for former athletic director Dick Tharp and women's soccer coach Bill Hempen, said Gillaspie agreed to dismiss the case with no concessions from any defendant and with the agreement she could not file it again.

"The simple truth is she's given up the case because it was groundless," Rice said. "From the very beginning, Bill and Dick had been adamant that the allegations made in this complaint were false and the fact that she's given up her lawsuit voluntarily I think speaks volumes about the truth of that assertion."

The scandal erupted in January with the public release of a deposition in one of the lawsuits. In it, Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan said she believed sex and alcohol were used to lure football recruits to the Boulder campus and that school officials had been warned to clamp down on partying by recruits and student-hosts.

Over the next several months, football coach Gary Barnett was put on leave over comments he made about two women who claim they were raped by his players. One involved former kicker Katie Hnida, who said she was raped by a Colorado teammate in 2000.

The scandal helped prompt an NCAA task force and congressional hearings on recruiting. The school made sweeping changes to its recruiting policies and Tharp resigned last month, saying he had done nothing wrong.

In all, nine women said they had been raped by football athletes since 1997, though police and the attorney general decided against filing any charges. Gillaspie and two other women sued the school, saying its failure to rein in athletes broke federal Title IX gender equity law and contributed to their assaults.

Gillaspie said she gave police details about the off-campus party where Lisa Simpson and the third woman say they were raped by football athletes. Simpson and Gillaspie have agreed to allow their names to be published, and Simpson has consolidated her lawsuit with the other alleged victim. Their case is scheduled to go to trial May 31.

Attorneys for Simpson and the other woman did not immediately return calls. Simpson spokeswoman Lisa Simon said Gillaspie's decision would have no effect on the remaining case.

"Monique Gillaspie has demonstrated a tremendous amount of courage and strength, and she'll continue to do so when she testifies this spring and tells her story, one that is very moving and very credible," Simon said.

School officials said in October that Gillaspie's lawsuit had cost the university $18,000 in legal fees. Rice said there were no plans to ask her to cover those costs.