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4/21/2001

Friend of Ramsey wants investigation of journalists reopened

By B.J. Plasket
The Daily Times-Call

DENVER — Former Ramsey -family friend Fleet R. White, Jr. is attempting to revive a now-dormant investigation in which he is seeking criminal charges against journalists who last year wrote stories mentioning him in the JonBenet Ramsey slaying.

White, who was with John Ramsey when he discovered his 6-year-old daughter’s body in the family’s basement, also hopes to convince Attorney General Ken Salazar to launch a grand jury investigation into allegations that media members criminally libeled him in stories spurred by a California woman’s claim she was sexually assaulted as a child.

White has now asked the Colorado Court of Appeals to overturn Boulder District Judge Roxanne Bailin’s order that ended the investigation launched by White and Boulder police in August 2000.

The appellate court has not decided if it will hear the case, according to records.

White first sought criminal charges after a series of stories in which the California woman accused a group — some of whom were reportedly in Boulder on the day JonBenet Ramsey was killed – of sexually assaulting her as a child.

The woman said she was assaulted in much the same manner as JonBenet and has known the White family since she was a small child.

The woman’s therapist later said the woman’s allegations were made four years before the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey and documented at that time. Former Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter, after interviewing the woman, said he found her “very believable.”

Boulder police, however, did not believe her.

The police department sought the criminal libel charges after White and his wife, Priscilla, supplied them with a stack of what he called “numerous documents, articles and Internet data” he believed wrongfully implicated him.

The Boulder District Attorney’s Office sought a special prosecutor, and the case was referred to Pueblo County District Attorney Gus Sandstrom.

Sandstrom, however, never got to make a filing decision.

White, in September, wrote to Bailin and asked her to remove Sandstrom from the case because of comments he made in a story in the Boulder Daily Camera, one of the targets of the investigation.

In that article Sandstrom said he “didn’t have much choice” in taking the case and did so reluctantly.

White called Sandstrom’s comments “improper and unfavorable” and said they should “disqualify him from further involvement.”

In his letter to Bailin, White expressed the Boulder Police Department’s desire to have the case assigned to a prosecutor of their choice — Larimer County District Attorney Stu Vanmeveren.

According to the letter, Vanmeveren turned down the appointment because of a heavy caseload and the fact that his office was moving to another building at the time.

Bailin responded to White’s letter by terminating both Sandstrom’s appointment and the criminal libel investigation.

In a December order clarifying the termination, Bailin said she terminated the case “based on the Whites’ request for the dismissal of the special prosecutor.”

In the September letter to Bailin, Fleet and Priscilla White said they were going to seek a state grand jury investigation, and took the unusual step of asking Bailin for her “support and cooperation” in obtaining the grand jury probe.

There has been no sign of a state grand jury being called, and the attorney general’s office does not normally announce the formation of grand juries.

The appeal claims Bailin didn’t have the legal authority to end either the special prosecution or the investigation.

Boulder Police, meanwhile, continue to focus on John and Patsy Ramsey as suspects in their daughter’s killing. Police chief Mark Beckner recently said that many people have been investigated in the crime, but that “no one outside the family” has become a suspect.

White was one of John Ramsey ’s best friends prior to the murder, but the two had a falling-out within days of the murder of JonBenet.

Colorado Springs attorney Douglas Price, who is representing the Whites in the appeal, could not be reached for comment.

According to court documents, filings in the case must be made by April 25. There is no indication when the court will decide if it will hear the case.

B.J. Plasket can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 451, or by e-mail at bplasket@times-call.com.