DENVER - Colorado’s attorney general declined Tuesday to file charges in nine alleged sexual assaults involving Colorado football players, citing concerns about evidence and the reluctance of women to pursue the cases.
Attorney General Ken Salazar, tapped as a special prosecutor by Gov. Bill Owens at the height of the football recruiting scandal in February, said a thorough review by his task force resulted in a unanimous decision against charges.
The decision was “based upon evidentiary considerations and-or the expressed wishes of some victims not to be subjected to the criminal justice process,” Salazar said.
Salazar, who did not return a call seeking comment, said the probe would remain open. The task force also will continue its investigation concerning other potential criminal matters involving the Colorado football team and its recruiting program.
The university and a Board of Regents panel are also investigating allegations that sex and alcohol were used to entice recruits to the Boulder campus. The regents’ panel must finish its work by Friday.
At least eight women had accused football players or recruits of rape since 1997, though no criminal charges were filed. The ninth allegation surfaced during the investigation, Salazar spokesman Ken Lane said, but he declined to elaborate.
Three of the women have sued the school in federal court, saying its failure to rein in the athletes contributed to their rapes in 2001. They claim the rapes constituted a hostile environment for women in violation of federal laws guaranteeing equal access to education. They are seeking unspecified damages and sweeping changes at the school.
Attorneys for one of the women, Lisa Simpson, said Salazar’s office “has never prosecuted a sexual assault case so we never expected that sexual assault would be the focus of their prosecution.”
“We are gratified that they’re pursuing potential criminal matters in the way the football program has been run at CU,” the attorneys said. Simpson has agreed to have her name used in public.
University President Elizabeth Hoffman said she appreciated the “timely manner” in which Salazar completed his work. “We have great respect for the difficult work being done by the special prosecutor,” she said.
Owens and a spokesman for the regents’ panel declined comment on Salazar’s decision.
The scandal erupted in January when a deposition by Boulder County prosecutor Mary Keenan in one of the lawsuits against the school was made public. Keenan said prosecutors met with university officials in 1998 to discuss an alleged rape the year before and advised them to clamp down on partying by recruits and their student-hosts.
Keenan also said she believed the football program uses sex and booze to entice recruits. School officials have disputed Keenan’s version of the meeting, but the scandal has not died down.
Football coach Gary Barnett has been suspended with pay for comments he made about one of the women.
CFT: Johnny Manziel nearly transferred out of Texas A&M before the 2012 season after being suspended, according to reports, but he stayed after his successful appeal.
About 325 former Penn State players, among them Kerry Collins and Paul Posluszny, have signed a statement supporting the lawsuit filed by the family of former coach Joe Paterno.
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