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U. of Colorado Settles Sex-Assault Suit


The University of Colorado has agreed to pay two women $2.85 million to settle a lawsuit alleging they were sexually assaulted by football players and recruits, school officials said Wednesday.

The allegations had sparked a football recruiting scandal at the school, prompted broad university reforms and led to a shake-up of its top leaders.

University spokesman Ken McConnellogue said the school also agreed to hire an adviser to monitor compliance with federal laws governing equal treatment of women and add a position in the university Office of Victim Assistance. The agreement came two months after an appellate court revived the lawsuit.

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

One of the women, Lisa Simpson, will receive $2.5 million, McConnellogue said. The other woman, who did not wish be identified publicly, will receive $350,000. The school did not admit fault or liability.

The Associated Press does not identify the victims of alleged sexual assault, but Simpson has agreed to be identified in media reports.

The women said they were raped by football players and recruits at an off-campus party on Dec. 7, 2001. Their lawsuit alleged the university violated federal law by fostering an environment that allowed sexual assaults to occur.

Simpson’s attorney, Baine Kerr, said Simpson and her parents had met with Brown to discuss non-monetary provisions of a settlement but final negotiations were handled last month between attorneys and a mediator. 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.

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

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

A federal judge dismissed the suit in 2005, saying the women failed to show evidence of deliberate indifference. In September, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived the lawsuit, ruling there was evidence the alleged assaults were caused by the school’s failure to adequately supervise players.

Brown, CU’s president, 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.

The recruiting scandal prompted a grand jury investigation, which resulted in a single indictment charging a former football recruiting aide with soliciting a prostitute and misuse of a school cell phone. He pleaded guilty and was placed on probation.

A separate inquiry, backed by the university’s 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.

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