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Publish Date: 3/7/2005

Salazar defends investigation into CU football recruiting scandal
New AG considering reopening CU case


DENVER — Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar is defending his work as the state’s attorney general on the investigation into the University of Colorado football recruiting scandal.

Last week’s leak to the media of a grand jury report on the investigation has prompted Attorney General John Suthers, who replaced Salazar, to consider reopening the case if he finds new evidence.

The grand jury and a task force headed by Salazar investigated allegations last year that the CU football program used drugs, sex and alcohol to entice blue chip recruits. The only indictment issued was for a former recruiting aide accused of using a university cell phone to solicit prostitutes for himself.

But the report raises fresh allegations of slush funds and sexual assaults, charges denied by CU officials.

The document, sealed by a state district judge, also claims that the University of Colorado Foundation, the school’s independent fund-raising arm, didn’t turn over all the records sought by jurors.

Salazar said Friday that his office conducted a thorough inquiry into the football program. The task force he headed declined to file charges in nine alleged sexual assaults because of insufficient evidence or the alleged victims’ reluctance to pursue the cases.

“I will tell you I am very confident with respect to the investigation that occurred and with respect to the grand jury proceedings that occurred,” said Salazar, who stepped down in January as attorney general after his election to the U.S. Senate.

The foundation officials lashed out at Assistant Attorney General Brian Whitney, accusing him of abuse of power for not making it clear that the foundation cooperated with the grand jury.

Salazar said he stands behind Whitney’s work.

“During the time he served me as one of the assistant attorneys general, he handled some of the toughest and most complex criminal cases,” Salazar said.

The football program scandal erupted when a deposition in a lawsuit by a former CU student was released last year.

In it, Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan accused the football program of using sex and alcohol-fueled parties to lure recruits.

Two women are suing the university, saying they were raped during or after a December 2001 off-campus party for football players and recruits.

Gov. Bill Owens appointed Salazar as special prosecutor to investigate allegations that the football program used sex, strippers and alcohol as recruiting tools and that nine women since 1997 had been assaulted by players or recruits.

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