Two former University of Colorado football players could soon face rape charges that first emerged during a recruiting scandal at the school.
In 2004 a local district attorney said the university was using alcohol and sex to lure high school athletes to play for its team. Colorado has since reformed its recruiting program, but no charges were brought against athletes accused of rape. That may be about to change.
One of the rape cases involves Julie Stene. In 2000 she attended a high school graduation party in a Denver suburb. Stene says she got very drunk, blacked out and at 3:00 a.m. woke up in her car — "in only a T-shirt, with mud on myself and in a lot of pain," says Stene. "And I knew that I had been sexually assaulted."
She went to the police, who took her to the hospital for tests. DNA from two people was collected from Stene. One matched classmate Clyde Surrell, who told police that he and Stene had consensual sex.
At first Stene was prepared to help prosecutors, but then her father became terminally ill. She was depressed and dropped out of the case. Then in 2004 the scandal at the University of Colorado was making headlines. Stene knew Surrell was a player there.
"And I thought, 'Oh God, if he's involved I'm going to feel really, really bad because I could have pressed charges against him and maybe this wouldn't have happened," says Stene.
She decided to pursue the case again but, according to court documents, the prosecutor refused to file charges, saying she didn't want to appear to be "jumping on the CU bandwagon." Stene's own lawyer then filed a rare civil suit to compel prosecution. Colorado District Court Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. recently issued an order in Stene's favor.
NPR couldn't reach Clyde Surrell for this story—phone numbers connected to his name were not in service. Lawyers who represented him in the past say they've had no contact with him. In 2007 he talked with Denver television station KUSA.
"If I've every heard a girl say stop, I'm done," Surrell told KUSA. "I'm not the aggressive type."
Julie Stene says another former classmate also raped her that night. Riley McMurdo also says he's innocent. His attorney Iris Eytan says she may challenge the judge's decision to compel the prosecutor to file charges.
"You have a situation where a career prosecutor made a decision not once, but she made it three times not to file this case. She said there's no case," says Eytan.
Judge Samour's order mentions a completely separate case involving another woman, Monique Gillaspie. She was a former soccer player at the University of Colorado and says she was raped in December of 2001 by Clyde Surrell and another football player, Marques Harris, who is now a professional football player with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Boulder County district attorney's office says it is reviewing those allegations to determine if charges are warranted. Attorney Lou Rubino is representing Harris and says it's a shame this case has resurfaced.
"[I]t should be a dead issue. It's been hashed and rehashed and, again, Harris did nothing wrong," says Rubino.
Rubino says Harris passed a polygraph test and submitted DNA samples back in 2001. He suspects prosecutors will conclude again that there's not enough evidence to bring a case.