Woman asks Colorado high court to review DA decision
Ryan Summerlin November 24, 2009
DENVER, Colorado – A woman who says she was raped by a classmate who later was tied to a sex-and-drugs scandal at the University of Colorado asked the Colorado Supreme Court on Monday to review a prosecutor’s decision not to file criminal charges.
Julie Stene says two classmates, one of whom later played football for CU, had sex with her after she had six to eight shots of vodka at a high school graduation party in 2000. She says she was too drunk to consent. Both men have denied wrongdoing.
Stene, who has agreed to be publicly identified, initially didn’t want to testify. Without her testimony, prosecutors didn’t file criminal charges.
In the meantime, a sex-and-drugs scandal was brewing at CU. According to court documents, one of Stene’s alleged attackers was at the off-campus apartments of two women the night they claimed they were raped by CU football players and recruits in December 2001. No criminal sex assault charges were filed.
Stene asked the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office in 2004 to reconsider filing charges in her case, but a prosecutor declined, partly due to the amount of time that had elapsed.
Stene asked again in 2007. After asking prosecutors in Larimer County to review the case, District Attorney Carol Chambers declined to file charges. Stene challenged the decision, and District Court Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. in May ordered Chambers to name a special prosecutor to file the charges. Samour called Chambers’ decision “arbitrary” and “capricious.”
The Colorado Court of Appeals overturned the order and said prosecutors have discretion to decide what cases to pursue.
In arguments filed Monday with the Colorado Supreme Court, Stene contends the appeals court’s decision conflicts with other court decisions. Stene also contends the 2004 decision not to file charges was based on a fear of adverse publicity for not prosecuting earlier.
Chambers did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday.
Stene’s attorney Baine Kerr said a decision by the Colorado Supreme Court could set a precedent affecting the relationship among crime victims seeking justice, prosecutors deciding whether to file criminal charges, and judges with oversight who can compel prosecution.
In December 2007, CU agreed to pay $2.85 million to settle a lawsuit by the two women who said they were sexually assaulted by football players and recruits in December 2001.
The women’s lawsuit alleged CU violated federal law by fostering an environment that allowed sexual assaults to occur. The allegations led to reforms and a shake-up of the school’s top leaders.
Groups including the National Crime Victim Law Institute filed a friends-of-the-court brief that said Stene’s case merits review by the Colorado Supreme Court. The groups said they were concerned about the “significant chilling effect” the appeals court’s decision would have on victims seeking justice through the criminal law system.