A person writing on paper with pen and ink.

Not Guilty on Fraternity Sexual Assault 2017

When regret gets you thrown out of school and asking why gets you charged with a serious felony with lifetime prison consequences.

About a year after a Thursday night party at a University of Colorado Boulder fraternity house, I get a call from a distraught father looking for help. He had hired a very confident attorney nearly a year prior. This attorney spent the entire first phone call talking about himself and how great he is. In fact, he never stopped talking about how great he is. Later I will show why that attorney needs to focus on his clients more than himself. The father had learned by now that he made the wrong choice initially.

This time, he contacted an attorney friend in Glenwood Springs who sent him to me. 

The first meeting included the now 19 year old accused, his father and his father’s best friend. We started with learning from them anything they wanted to tell me (for a portion, speaking with client alone to protect confidentiality). I wanted to know these people and learn about their lives. I needed to understand the family. How they got here.

When they asked, I spoke about my process, the process I learned at the Trial Lawyers’ College at Thunderhead Ranch near Dubois, Wy. I started my career as a Colorado Public Defender in Colorado Springs and Adams, County. They taught me the nuts and bolts of criminal defense and I won many cases using their training. I will always be grateful. 

The Trial Lawyers’ College taught me how to love my jury, how to empathize with complaining witnesses (according to Colorado statutes, if you claim an assault, you are a victim), the police and other witnesses. We learn to reverse roles with all the people we meet to better understand who they are and what their motivations might be. Other tools are taught and were used in this case.

I discussed the process and we started working immediately. 

The University of Colorado Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance starts to investigate. This is CU’s Title IX office created to comply with the “Dear Colleague Letter.†Responding to schools and police departments failing to properly investigate sexual assault cases, the Obama administration created a process to solve the problem. The process took away almost all rights to due process of the accused. The process lowers the standard of proof to preponderance of the evidence, the scales of justice, 50%-50%. On the accusers side is not just the weight of any evidence found, but also the threat by the government to take away all Federal money, all student loan guarantees, all grants, all aid. The accused, has no power. He cannot even ask a single question to the person calling him a rapist. [New rules allow cross examination in certain circumstances, but not always. CU has ruled that any claim that takes place off campus is does not get cross examination. This is a due process violation that will take some time to get overturned.]

A year earlier, CU OIEC met with the complaining witness, a college freshman from the mid-west coming of age at a school where everyone appears to be very thin, social, popular, drinks alcohol, may use drugs and is sexually promiscuous. She did not report it initially. The University of Colorado Office of Victim Assistance received an anonymous report from a fraternity member. She states that seeing the word victim was the first time she considered that she might be a victim. 

In her first meeting with OVA, the CU counselor/therapist/victim advocate told the complaining witness that she was raped. From this point, the complaining witness would push to get my client punished as a rapist, even after a Boulder County jury found him not guilty. Had she never encountered this CU employee, she may never have suffered the consequences of believing she was a victim.

A note about the process of any rape counselor. They do not question or investigate anything about the story told by the person sitting in front of them. The current theory is that you always believe the victim. They assume she is a victim and telling the truth, and no matter what, they will support her as a victim. During meetings, including therapy, they repeatedly tell her she is a victim and that all feelings and contradictions are just signs of being a victim. All changes in story or “fact†are the result of being a victim. A vulnerable 18 year old walks into an office not knowing what to expect, feeling bad about getting drunk and hooking up in a public way, feeling shame of lots of people knowing her worst choice. She is told it is not her fault. That feels much better. She might be pissed about being treated like a anonymous hook up rather than a girlfriend. The rape counselor that sees all things through one lens tells her to stand up for others who cannot and that he will do it again. How many people in this situation could truly stand up and say no, I was not raped. After a few weeks of indoctrination, anyone would start to believe. It gets really hard to admit the truth the farther the case gets.