Book on CU scandals imperfect

Slim citations, faulty reporting mar worthwhile "Buffaloed"

Nov. 19, 2005

by David Kopel

Buffaloed: How Race, Gender, and Media Bias Fueled a Season of Scandalaims to prove that almost everything you have read or heard about the University of Colorado football scandal is wrong. Author Bruce Plasket self-published the book after his original publisher withdrew as the result of a threatened "swamp of litigation" from the attorney for CU plaintiff Lisa Simpson.

The book bears the scars of self- publication: numerous typos, repetition and poor editing. The most significant problem, though, is that the book has no endnotes or other citations, and frequently cites sources too vaguely.

For example, Plasket accurately writes that "several witnesses" at Simpson's infamous Dec. 7, 2001, party, said they saw her passing out condoms shortly before her sexual encounters. But Plasket fails to explain that those witnesses were football players and recruits - a fact that makes the testimony significantly less credible than if the witnesses were Simp- son's friends.

Also, Plasket goes to preposterous lengths to demonize the city of Boulder as racist. He even describes a 1973 incident in which a CU student told a black freshman football player to stop throwing rocks at squirrels.

Many of Plasket's criticisms of the media, however, are accurate. Plasket writes that the press failed to inform readers about the background of Regina Cowles, the head of the Boulder chapter of the National Organization of Women, who was frequently quoted in the press expressing her outrage about CU. Cowles was the campaign manager for CU Regent Cindy Carlisle, who is married to Baine Kerr, Simpson's attorney.

My review of Rocky Mountain Newsand Denver Postarchives confirmed Plasket's charge. There were 17 Newsand 13 Postarticles about CU in which Cowles appeared. Only once did the Postmention Cowles' connection to Carlisle, and the Newsnever did.

Buffaloedfumbles in discussing the case of Ron Monteilh, the CU wide receiver who was victimized by a false accusation of having given marijuana to teenagers at Simpson's party. Boulder District Attorney Mary Keenan charged him with a felony and, as a result, his name appeared in at least 10 articles in the Postand three in the Newsreiterating the charge (which Keenan's office finally dropped).

Plasket quotes Monteilh's mother that after Monteilh was exonerated, the exoneration appeared only in "one line in one paper." Mrs. Monteilh might sincerely believe so, but Plasket should have known better. The Poston Aug. 18, 2002, and the Newson the next day printed full-sized articles on Monteilh's innocence. The Newsfollowed up on Aug. 27, 2002, with a short editorial praising CU for standing by the victim of a false accusation. Shortly before the subsequent football season, the Post(Aug. 29, 2003) ran a long biography of Monteilh, restating his innocence, and providing numerous testimonies to his virtues.

In the spring of 2002, there were many stories in the Newsand Postreporting that four football players were under investigation for rapes allegedly perpetrated at the Simpson party, and that DNA tests were being conducted. Plasket writes, "None of the four were connected to the incident by DNA tests - a fact that, in spite of its importance to the story, has never been reported by the media."

The four players were suspected of abetting the rape of Simpson, rather than of raping her themselves, so the absence of DNA evidence is not necessarily conclusive. But if the DNA tests were important enough to mention over and over when they were being taken, then the finding of no DNA evidence against any CU player merited at least an acknowledgement.

Plasket is also right that the media seriously underemphasized the credibility problems of the second plaintiff in the case. According to Buffaloed,the second plaintiff filed her own lawsuit in December 2003, two years after the party; in the interim, she had told police that her own sexual activity at the party was consensual. Plasket also writes of a Boulder police detective's report stating that the plaintiff told Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neil Woelk about the party, and "later told me she embellished what she had seen." Moreover, according to Plasket, "In March of 2005 Woelk said that when [she] approached him days after the party, she denied being raped."

Plasket himself, however, should have also included some other relevant facts - such as the witnesses who said the plaintiff was far too drunk to consent to sex, and that she was clearly traumatized the next day.

The evidence of sexual assaults by football players is weaker than most of the media has asserted, but is still stronger than Plasket admits.  

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