Woman: Police, UM mishandled her 2010 rape

2011-12-20T23:00:00Z 2012-01-14T16:00:05Z Woman: Police, UM mishandled her 2010 rapeBy GWEN FLORIO Missoulian The Billings Gazette
December 20, 2011 11:00 pm  • 

A University of Montana student who said she was sexually assaulted, possibly after being drugged, by members of the Grizzlies football team at an off-campus house party a year ago said she wishes she’d more vigorously pursued legal action against the school.

“When I first heard about this, I felt like, ‘Oh, my God. I could have prevented this from happening again,’ “ said the student, whose name is being withheld by the Missoulian because of the nature of the allegations.

“This” is an investigation by a former Montana Supreme Court justice into allegations that multiple male students sexually assaulted two female students on campus earlier this month. A source with direct knowledge of the case said the alleged attack involved UM football players.

Although the woman who said she was assaulted on Dec. 15, 2010, reported the incident to police, no charges were filed.

Missoula Police Detective Sgt. Bob Bouchee said Tuesday that police met with head football coach Robin Pflugrad after the Missoula County Attorney’s Office made the decision not to prosecute.

The woman said no one from the university ever contacted her. “By the time my parents started looking into getting a lawyer, the case was closed,” she said.

Earlier this week, UM Vice President Jim Foley said the university’s independent investigator, former state Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz, will examine only reports of assaults on campus, which includes Greek housing.

He specifically said the university is not investigating a separate allegation of a Dec. 3 physical assault on a female UM student by other students because that incident reportedly occurred at a home on Southwest Higgins Avenue.

When asked Tuesday about the 2010 incident, Foley said: “The investigation we’re doing is ongoing and we’ll have a report by the end of the year.”

Asked whether that investigation had expanded to include possible off-campus incidents, he repeated: “The investigation we’re doing is ongoing and we’ll have a report by the end of the year.”

The student’s parents contacted the Missoulian about the 2010 incident after reading about the current UM investigation.

“We were left with no answers and no further investigation,” they wrote in an email about their daughter’s case.

“I really felt that we were brushed off, and my daughter did, too,” the student’s mother said in a telephone interview.

“We wanted to support her as far as, ‘How far do you want to push this?’ “ the student’s mother said. “She said, ‘Mom, they’re football players and nobody’s gonna listen to me. They’ll make my life hell.’ ”

Both the recent incidents may have involved the use of the sedative Rohypnol, sometimes called the “date-rape” drug. Foley said the investigation into the campus allegations will seek the source of the drug. And the woman who reported the Dec. 3 physical assault had only hazy memories, according to Missoula police.

The woman who said she was sexually assaulted last year also believes she may have been drugged. She said she went to a party at the Mount Avenue home of one of the football players at the invitation of a friend after finishing her last final exam.

She got there about 5:45 p.m. and was playing cards and drinking shots with her friend and five men, at least four of whom were on the football team, she said. She wasn’t sure if the fifth man was a member of the team. All the men, she said, also were smoking marijuana-stuffed cigars.

The last thing she remembers is looking at the clock at 6:30 p.m. “I had gone from being completely fine to being drunk — really, really drunk. I knew something was wrong.”

She said she found herself in a bedroom, drifting in and out of awareness as guys arrived and left. Her friend — “we’re no longer friends” — seemed to be ignoring what was happening, she said.

“I eventually came to,” she said, and “burst into tears.” She called another friend who took her to the hospital at about 9 or 9:30 p.m., and then called her aunt, who took her to the police station.

She said she never obtained the results of blood tests done at the hospital.

In January 2011, a police investigator called the woman and told her that the men had said she’d willingly had sex with them, she said.

“The detective said I said yes to all four boys,” she said. “They said they asked the boys, ‘If you’d seen someone taking advantage of a girl, would you put up with it?’ and they said, ‘No,’ “ she said. She said police told her that “the boys said they were sorry. I think they’re full of shit.”

The Missoula Police Department’s Bouchee said Tuesday that interviews with the five men and one other woman at that party, along with a lack of “incriminating” evidence, led to the decision not to file charges.

Bouchee said one of the players involved notified an assistant football coach of the December 2010 incident, and that police met with Pflugrad when the investigation was completed.

On Tuesday, UM athletic director Jim O’Day declined to take questions about the case, referring all calls involving students to Foley.

The student who said she was victimized in that incident said that when she read about the most recent allegations, “I just shook my head and said, ‘It doesn’t surprise me.’ ”

Maybe, she said, it will spur change.

“Finally, someone will hopefully realize this is happening,” she said. “The university should open their eyes.”

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