CU settles football sexual assault suit |

CU settles football sexual assault suit

P. Solomon Banda
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” The University of Colorado has agreed to pay $2.85 million to settle a lawsuit by two women who claimed they were gang-raped by football players and recruits at an off-campus party.

The settlement, announced Wednesday, may finally end a painful six-year saga that sparked a football recruiting scandal, prompted broad university reforms and led to a shake-up of the school’s top leaders.

The agreement came two months after an appellate court revived the lawsuit.

Without admitting fault or liability, the school agreed to pay Lisa Simpson $2.5 million, while the other woman, who did not wish be identified publicly, will receive $350,000.

The Associated Press does not identify the victims of alleged sexual assault without their permission.

University President Hank Brown said agreeing to the settlement was “a difficult decision, painful in some ways, but it’s my sense that it was in the interest of the university.”

He said CU faced years of litigation over the case, and fees for outside attorneys had already reached $3 million.

Brown said one factor in the decision to settle was a ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that reinstated the lawsuit after a lower court had dismissed it.

“Obviously the case was settled, we thought, at the district court,” Brown said.

He said the appeals court not only kept the lawsuit alive, but it “changed the law and it ended up rewriting” federal law or the application of it.

He said CU faced years of litigation over the case, and fees for outside attorneys had already reached $3 million.

A message left for Simpson’s attorney, Baine Kerr, was not immediately returned. Simpson met with Brown at his office Wednesday but was not made available for comment.

In a statement released through the school, Simpson said she was pleased with steps the school has taken.

“I encourage other institutions of higher education throughout the nation to take similar steps,” she said.

Janine D’Anniballe, director of Boulder’s rape crisis center, said Simpson fought hard to make CU change.

“She wanted change in the university. I think that’s what she got. Even more important than money is change,” she said.

The school also agreed to hire a person to advise the school on Title IX issues and add a position in the office of Victim Assistance.

The women’s lawsuit alleged CU violated federal law by fostering an environment that allowed sexual assaults to occur. The suit accused the university of failing to adequately supervise players when the women were raped in 2001.

A U.S. district judge dismissed it in 2005, saying the women produced no evidence that the school acted with “deliberate indifference.”

In September, the appellate court revived the lawsuit, saying there was evidence the university had an official policy of showing high school recruits a “good time” and had shown deliberate indifference. The appeals judges sent the lawsuit back to district court.

CU has insisted its policies do not place female students at risk and said it has become a leader in policies to prevent sexual assault and harassment.

The settlement was announced nearly six years to the day after the Dec. 7, 2001 party attended by CU football players and recruits.

No sexual assault charges were filed as a result of the women’s complaints. A grand jury investigation resulted in a single indictment against a former football recruiting aide for soliciting a prostitute and misusing a school cell phone.

A separate inquiry, backed by the university’s governing Board of Regents, concluded that drugs, alcohol and sex were used to entice blue chip recruits to the Boulder campus but said none of the activity was knowingly sanctioned by university officials.

The school responded by overhauling oversight of the athletics department and putting some of the most stringent policies in place for any football recruiting program.

The fallout included the resignations of CU System President Betsy Hoffman and Athletic Director Dick Tharp.

The football team’s head coach at the time, Gary Barnett, survived the scandal, but later accepted a buyout after a 70-3 loss to Texas in the 2005 Big 12 championship game.

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