BOULDER — In the enclave of Boulder — where crime stories seem to take on a life of their own — the University of Colorado recruiting scandal and the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation were destined to collide.
Using the withdrawal of District Attorney Mary Keenan from the CU case as ammunition, a man who seems obsessed with all things Ramsey has asked that Gov. Bill Owens assign a special prosecutor to the 6-year-old girl’s 1996 murder.
Fleet White, the former best friend of John Ramsey, claims that Keenan should be removed from the Ramsey case for the same reasons a special prosecutor was appointed to look into improprieties allegedly committed by CU football players and recruits.
Keenan said the Ramsey case “belongs to Boulder” and that comparisons to the CU case are not relevant.
“(White) is making an analogy, but it doesn’t really fit,” Keenan said Tuesday.
Owens’ spokeswoman Kristen Hubbell said Tuesday the governor stands by a special commission’s finding in 1999 that recommended against a special prosecutor.
“At this time the governor is not going to appoint a special prosecutor in the JonBenet Ramsey case,” Hubbell said.
In February, Owens assigned Attorney General Ken Salazar to take the lead in the CU investigation after a firestorm erupted when a deposition from Keenan was released in which she accused CU of using sex and alcohol to lure recruits.
The deposition was taken as part of a lawsuit against the university filed by former CU student Lisa Simpson, who claims she was raped by football players and recruits at a Dec. 7, 2001, off-campus party.
Keenan asked that a special prosecutor take over for her “to ensure public confidence in the criminal process.”
She said that her role as a witness in the Simpson case could undermine “complete confidence in the outcome of any criminal investigations if ultimate decisions as to whether to prosecute are made solely by my office.”
White, who has asked several times that the governor appoint a special prosecutor, claims that Keenan’s potential involvement in a lawsuit against Fox News by the Ramseys should also result in her removal. John and Patsy Ramsey are suing Fox News after the network fingered their son as JonBenet’s killer.
Keenan might end up a witness in that case because of her statements that support “an intruder theory,” which would exonerate members of the Ramsey family.
In letters to Owens and Keenan, White — who communicates to the media only through fax — claims that Keenan’s involvement in the Fox lawsuit would hurt the Ramsey investigation. In March, Fleet White, and his wife, Priscilla, met with Owens’ lawyers to express their concerns. In the meeting and in the letters, White said the outcome of the Ramsey case is more important to the state than the CU investigation.
“One involved questionable, unsubstantiated or non-prosecutable allegations of sexual assault involving adults; the other involves the abuse torture and homicide of a six-year-old child,” White wrote. “There is absolutely no doubt as to which case represents the greatest threat to the public’s respect and confidence in the criminal justice system.”
White said since his meeting with Owens’ staff, the governor has not responded to his request for a special prosecutor.
Keenan said a special prosecutor in the CU case was appropriate because CU is a state institution and the case involves multiple jurisdictions. She said that the media coverage also was causing a perception that she was biased against the university.
Hubbell pointed out that Keenan herself asked for a special prosecutor to look into the allegations against CU and echoed Keenan’s multi-jurisdiction argument.
Keenan said the Ramsey case is in good hands with the team of investigators she has assembled.
Late last year, DNA found in the underwear that JonBenet Ramsey was wearing when she was murdered was submitted to the FBI’s national DNA databank.
“We will keep on it as long as we feel we are making forward progress,” Keenan said.
White has been involved in the Ramsey case since day one. He was with John Ramsey when JonBenet’s body was found in the wine cellar of the Ramseys’ home, and at first he supported John and Patsy Ramsey’s claims of innocence.
At some point, White became convinced of their guilt and started a campaign to have the governor remove former District Attorney Alex Hunter and appoint an independent prosecutor to the case.
In October 2001, White was sentenced to 30 days in jail by a Jefferson County judge after he ignored two subpoenas in a Ramsey-related trial.