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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Colorado Governor Names Attorney General as Special Prosecutor in Football Sex Case

Colorado’s governor has appointed the state’s attorney general as a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of sexual assault and recruiting violations that are swirling around the University of Colorado’s football program.

Gov. Bill Owens also announced that he would appoint two additional members to an investigative commission that was recently established by the university’s Board of Regents. He said the two new members — one a prosecutor and the other an advocate for victims of sexual assault — would represent the public on the panel.

Mr. Owens, a Republican, called on the Legislature to give the committee subpoena power so that it could compel witnesses to testify.

The University of Colorado at Boulder is reeling from allegations that the football program used sex and alcohol to recruit players. More troubling, seven women have said they were raped by Colorado football players or recruits in the last four years. Gary Barnett, the head coach, has been placed on administrative leave.

The governor said he and other officials “want these allegations investigated thoroughly. And the facts put on the table. No spin. No whitewash. No excuses.”

Mary Keenan, the district attorney in Boulder, asked the governor last week to appoint Ken Salazar, the attorney general, to pursue any criminal investigations related to the football program. She said she wanted to be sure the public had confidence in the investigation, and she was concerned that confidence would be undermined if the decision to prosecute were made solely by her office.

The governor’s move was met with approval by university officials.

Peter Steinhauer, chairman of the Board of Regents, said he was pleased to have a special prosecutor named. “Very serious allegations have been made, and I agree with the governor that it is critical to do everything we can to get the bottom of these issues quickly and responsibly,” he said.

In a joint statement, Elizabeth Hoffman, president of the university, and Richard L. Byyny, chancellor of the Boulder campus, said they supported the appointment of a special prosecutor. “We also support the attorney general and his commitment to move quickly and aggressively to resolve these issues,” the statement said. “It is critical that we work expeditiously and responsibly to address the serious allegations that have been made, and the special prosecutor will help do that.”

The university’s investigative panel holds its first meeting on Tuesday. The chairwomen said they welcomed the governor’s announcement and they believed that subpoena power would allow the commission to better gather information. Peggy Lamm and Joyce Lawrence said in a written statement that the appointment of Mr. Salazar would complement the university commission. “We understand that our role will be examining policies and procedures regarding whether alcohol and sex have been used as recruiting tools,” they said. “We also understand that the special prosecutor will be investigating possible criminal wrongdoing, an area that is not part of our mission.”

But not all members of commission believe the changes are necessary. Jean Dubofsky and Luis Rovir, told the Associated Press that the group already had people in the roles suggested by the governor. In addition, Ms. Dubofsky said, she doubted that subpoena power was needed for an investigation that was focused on administrative policy.

The governor said that a special prosecutor was necessary because the allegations crossed county lines and judicial districts, while jeopardizing the public’s confidence in the university. “This investigation needs the credibility that comes from experts outside of the university,” he said.

By Scott Smallwood, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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