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10/24/2002

Prosecutor to look into libel claims from Ramsey case

Travis Henry
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — The Boulder County District Attorney’s Office filed a motion earlier this week to have a special prosecutor once again look into accusations that media outlets committed criminal libel in a series of stories related to the JonBenet Ramsey murder.

The claims come from Fleet and Priscilla White, who contend that the Boulder Daily Camera implicated Fleet White as having a part in JonBenet’s death by reporting on claims made by a California woman. The White’s also claim that other media outlets might have committed libel by following up on the stories.

The woman said she was sexually assaulted as a child by a California-based child-abuse ring that included members of White’s family.

She also claimed that one of her alleged childhood assailants traveled to Boulder with a small female child and attended the same Christmas party as 6-year-old JonBenet the night she died. It was speculated that the party was held at the Boulder home of Fleet White, the former best friend of JonBenet’s father, John Ramsey .

Police later said the woman’s claims against Fleet White were unfounded.

A special prosecutor was already appointed once, but the case was dismissed by Judge Roxanne Bailin, who said the Whites asked that the investigation be terminated.

District Attorney Mary Keenan said Wednesday that the first special prosecutor’s dismissal might have been because of a misunderstanding and that the Whites deserve to have their complaints heard. Keenan said the Whites had a conflict with special prosecutor Gus Sandstrom, from the Pueblo County District Attorney’s Office, leading to their asking for his dismissal.

The Whites asked for his removal because of comments Sandstrom made to the Boulder Daily Camera, according to a letter written to Bailin by the Whites.

According to Keenan, that letter might have been interpreted by Bailin as a request to have the case terminated.

The Whites also attempted unsuccessfully to have the attorney general’s office appoint a special grand jury to look into their criminal libel claims.

Keenan said she had appellate deputy Bill Nagel recently review the case at the White’s request

It is now up to Bailin to decide whether another special prosecutor will be appointed.

The Whites claimed a victory of sorts earlier this year when Boulder District Judge Lael Montgomery ruled that she will review a portion of the JonBenet Ramsey investigation files to determine if any of it can be seen by the Whites. Boulder police objected to handing the files over for review, calling the case still under investigation.

“The court is not persuaded that the public’s interest would be served in any fashion by preventing these people access to the now-discredited accusations, which had been leveled against them in such an extraordinarily public way,” Montgomery wrote in her ruling.

If the Whites are allowed to view the file, it will be the first time the police have turned over any of the Ramsey files to anyone other than attorneys or other law enforcement officials.