Newly released police reports paint a more complete picture of four sexual misconduct complaints and one harassment complaint against UA football players during a five-year span beginning in 2012.
Two of the 12 police reports obtained by the Arizona Daily Star through public records requests reference group sex that was captured on cellphone video and shown to other students. Two of the four accusers in the reports worked for the football program as support-staffers and left after the incidents occurred.
No charges were filed in any of the four sexual misconduct cases reported to police. However, one case led to the expulsion of two Wildcats football players and the suspension of a third. It’s unclear if any of the other incidents resulted in discipline by the university. The UA has refused to name the players involved or release the results of any internal investigations.
The reports come as the UA defends itself in two federal lawsuits regarding its failure to protect female students from former running back Orlando Bradford, who is serving five years in prison after admitting to choking two ex-girlfriends, one of whom worked in the athletic department. Former assistant track and field coach Craig Carter sits in a Florence prison after he admitted to assaulting a former Wildcats thrower. She is also suing the UA, claiming they failed to protect her from her former coach.
A change in plans
Tucson police detectives converged on the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility on Oct. 21, 2014, planning to interview several UA football players who had been implicated in a group sexual assault that reportedly happened the year before.
The accuser, a freshman at the time of the incident who worked for the football team, told police she had been raped by five players at a party in April 2013 where she suspected she had been drugged. She told police she recalled seeing a bright light during the attack — she later learned that she had been filmed, and that the footage was shared among other students.
The meeting with detectives had been prearranged between a Tucson Police Department lieutenant and several UA employees who initially had agreed to help find the suspects and witnesses to the alleged assault. But when police arrived on campus, school officials told them that, on the advice of university attorneys, they would only tell the suspects and witnesses that police wanted to speak to them and let those people decide whether they wanted to talk.
Four football players and one support-staffer agreed to interviews on the spot. It took police weeks to locate and interview the others; in one case, they were never able to make contact.
The Pima County Attorney’s Office ultimately did not file any charges in the case because it “could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that this was not group consensual sex,” a police report said. The county attorney agreed the accuser may have been drugged, but because she waited 18 months to report the alleged incident, there was no way to prove her claims.
The Star attempted to identify and interview the accuser but was unsuccessful.
The UA opened a Title IX investigation into the incident, and ultimately expelled two football players from school and suspended a third, according to disclosure made in court by one of the university’s attorneys.The university initially refused to reveal the names of the players, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA. That law, however, allows school officials to “disclose the final results of disciplinary proceedings if the institution has found that the student has violated the institution’s rules or policies in regard to a crime of violence or a nonforcible sex offense.”
The Star again asked the UA to release the names of the expelled players citing that exemption, but UA spokesman Chris Sigurdson responded by email: “The university does not publicly release information on student conduct inquiries to avoid unforeseen and adverse consequences that could affect victims and witnesses and to protect the integrity of the process.”
The accuser in the alleged group assault quit her job with the football team six months after the incident, telling her superiors there had been “an incredible deal of sexual harassment” at work. Despite leaving her job, she was allowed to keep her scholarship, which had previously been tied to her job. She told the police the UA’s dean of students and Title IX office opened an investigation into working conditions within the football program after she quit, at which point she told them about the assault.
The accuser told police she decided to report the alleged assault to police after hearing that a friend had been raped by a separate group of football players in the Wildcats’ home locker room. The accuser said she didn’t initially report the assault because she was focused on “her own survival” and “living through the day.” She said that after the incident several football players told her “Shut up, no one wants to hear about that,” and warned that she’d ruin her life and the lives of the players involved if she reported the attack.
Several members of the UA football staff were aware of the incident, the accuser told police, but none reached out to her. The coaches did not discipline the players involved, she said.
Wildcats implicated in multiple cases
The Star submitted public records requests to Tucson police and university police in November, seeking all reports involving allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence against current and former Wildcats football players dating back to 2012, when former coach Rich Rodriguez took over. The two agencies returned a total of 12 reports, some of which listed players as witnesses in cases involving other suspects.
Of the five reports produced by UA police, two involved physical altercations between roommates, which is classified as domestic violence. The other three contained allegations of sexual misconduct, although no arrests were made. It’s unclear if any of the involved students were investigated for violating the UA’s student code of conduct, which prohibits violent crime and sexual misconduct, since “all aspects of code of conduct inquiries are confidential,” said Sigurdson, the UA spokesman.
Tucson police produced seven reports, including one documenting the alleged group sexual assault.
Two of the TPD reports identified former Wildcats players as witnesses, and three were related to the arrests three former Wildcats on allegations of domestic violence. The other two incidents yielded no arrests, and the names of the players accused of crimes were redacted.
College athletes are three times more likely to be named in Title IX sexual misconduct complaints than average students, ESPN has reported, with 6.3 percent of Title IX complaints filed in Power 5 schools being levied against athletes. On average, athletes make 1.7 percent of total student enrollment at these schools, according to ESPN.
Here are details from seven other police reports obtained by the Star:
• On May 6, 2012, Tucson police went to the emergency room at St. Mary’s hospital to meet with a woman whose boyfriend called police to report that she’d been sexually assaulted. The accuser told police that she’d gone the movies the day before with some friends, one of whom was a UA football player. The three went back to the woman’s apartment and stayed up talking late into the night, at which point the woman went to bed. The football player, whom the woman had been friends with for nearly a year, went to sleep on the couch, as he’d done a few times in the past.
The woman told police she woke up to the feeling of someone hugging her from behind and rubbing his body on hers. The woman said she was “so in shock” that she couldn’t speak, but realized the person in her bed was the football player she’d left to sleep on the couch. She said she pushed him but was in too “much shock to struggle” and the football player went on to have sex with her.
She told him to leave when he was done and called her boyfriend, who told police she was “shivering, crying and shaking” when he arrived at her apartment. The woman told police she felt bad that she hadn’t said no, but didn’t want to prosecute.
Five days later — after school was out for the semester — the woman called police and told them she’d changed her mind and wanted to press charges. With many students out of town for the summer, police hit a roadblock in the case, resuming their investigation in the fall of 2012.
Between Jan. 24 and Feb. 4, 2013, police made several attempts to interview the football player, who the police report noted “would respond sporadically” to email attempts to set up a meeting and refused to speak by phone. On Feb. 4, the player sent an email that he would not meet with detectives unless his attorney was present.
The police report does not indicate whether detectives ever interviewed the football player.
On Feb. 13, 2013, police presented the case to the county attorney’s office for consideration of charges. The office declined, citing the “totality of facts or lack thereof,” including “most importantly the prosecution’s inability to be able to overcome a consent defense by the suspect.”
The woman reached out to the Star last spring to share her story. She said she regrets not reporting the incident to UA officials.
“Don’t be afraid to point out the person who was your predator, who attacked you, who hurt you,” she told the Star. “I think I shied away from that in the sense that, yes, I may have talked to the police, but I think I gave up because I didn’t know what to do.”
• Feb. 12, 2013, a 19-year-old UA student contacted campus police to say she was being harassed by a 19-year-old UA football player.
The woman told police she had become friends with the athlete about a month earlier. The two exchanged phone numbers and began texting daily. A week before she made the report, the woman said the pair were studying in her room when the football player told her, “Sometimes you make me so mad I just want to choke you,” according to the report.
He went on to ask the woman if she would tell the police or her parents if he choked her. The woman told police she was alarmed, but said nothing and the two continued studying.
The day before she called police, the woman received 11 text messages from the player. In one, he accused her of having sex with someone else, to which she responded, “It’s clearly none of your business what I do.” The woman told police that she and the player had consensual sex one time.
The player sent several more text messages after her response, but she didn’t reply. She told police she believed she was in danger, since he’d showed up at her dorm room unannounced in the past. He had also told her that he had an anger problem and didn’t know how to control his temper, the report said.
The woman told police she didn’t want to press charges, saying she wanted to document what had happened.
• On Aug. 26, 2014, campus police were contacted by a UA employee who alerted them to allegations of sexual assault involving a pair of freshman football players.
The incident was initially reported as a code of conduct violation; redactions in the police report make it unclear who or what entity conducted the investigation.
UA police were told that a 21-year-old woman employed by the athletic department had sex at least twice with three UA football players, two of whom were minors at the time. Parts of one sexual encounter were recorded by one of the players. He later showed the recording to other students, according to the report.
When police spoke to the woman, she said she couldn’t remember all of the events because she’d been drinking. She said at one point she felt like she was in a “dreamlike state,” the report said.
She told police that her sexual encounter with one of the then-17-year-old football players was consensual, but that he strongly encouraged her to have sex with his teammate, also 17, on more than one occasion. The woman said during one of the encounters, she said, “No, this is not happening,” but couldn’t remember how the situation progressed to sex with the player she had previously said no to.
The woman told police she assumed the two 17-year-olds were of legal age since they were in college. She learned differently after the encounters, the report said.
The woman lost her job after the video was released. She told police that although she didn’t believe all of the encounters were consensual, she didn’t want to press charges and “just wanted it all to be over with and gone,” the report said.
The case against the woman and the players was presented to the Pima County Attorney’s Office, which declined to prosecute.
• On Oct. 21, 2015, UA police went to Campus Health to take a mandatory report from a UA nurse involving a sexual assault. The nurse told officers that she’d been contacted by phone by a student who wanted information about sexually transmitted disease testing, saying she’d had nonconsensual sex, according to the police report.
The woman told the nurse that she’d gone to a fraternity house near Banner University Medical Center the night of Oct. 1 and had blacked out, waking up in her dorm room the next morning. The woman said the last thing she remembered before blacking out was dancing in the fraternity’s kitchen with a UA football player.
The nurse said the woman spoke to the player after the incident and he told her they had sex and it had been consensual, the report said.
“He also told her she better not press charges against him because she consented and she was drunk,” according to the report.
The woman’s dorm mates “found her passed out outside the dorm wearing nothing but a G-string and sweatshirt covered in vomit,” the report said.
It is unclear from the report if the case was presented to the county attorney’s office to consider filing charges.
‘Why aren’t you doing anything?’
The details in the police reports weren’t surprising to John Clune, a Title IX attorney.
He said group sexual assault — and the recording of sexual exploits — is more common among male athletes on high-profile teams than among students at large. Some of the athletes, he said, see it as a team-bonding activity. Fraternity members fit the same profile, Clune said, but are accused of nonconsensual group sex at a lower rate than that of athletes.
Clune is a lawyer with the Boulder, Colorado-based firm Hutchinson, Black and Cook, which represents one of the plaintiffs in one of the federal lawsuits against the UA. Because of his firm’s involvement, Clune was unable to comment about the UA’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct by athletes. But speaking from experience, Clune said he’s noticed “a pattern of schools being more likely to try to shut down any report of sexual misconduct in any athletic programs, particularly in any of the more marquee programs that might have media that could follow any allegations.”
“There’s a higher prevalence of schools trying to ignore those reports than in nonathlete cases,” he said.
John Manly, the lawyer representing many of the 332 women who sued the Michigan State University over abuse of student gymnasts by Dr. Larry Nassar, says when schools refuse to assist police with investigations involving athlete misconduct, they’re sending a serious and damning message to students and the general public. Manly’s firm is one of several representing the former Wildcats thrower in her lawsuit against Carter and the UA.
“The message you’re sending is really twofold: One, ‘We have something to hide’ and, Two, ‘You don’t matter, victim; you don’t matter, young woman. What matters is our football team, and more importantly, the money they generate,’” Manly said.
Manly found the UA’s response to police investigating the group sexual assault troubling.
“When the police come and have done an investigation and they come to the university and say, ‘Help us with this investigation because we think a woman was raped’ and you as a university say no, that, in my view, is morally reprehensible,” Manly said, “especially with a public university” funded by taxpayers.
Manly believes the UA president in 2014, Ann Weaver Hart, should have ordered the players implicated in the alleged group sexual assault to either talk to police or be removed from the team. He said schools’ governing boards and state lawmakers should also be held accountable for the way their universities handle investigations. It’s unclear if the Arizona Board of Regents or Hart were made aware of the situation.
“The question has to be asked of these officials: ‘Why aren’t you doing anything?’” Manly said. “It’s up to state officials to use their bully pulpit to say, ‘We have daughters, we have moms, we have sisters. You don’t get to treat them this way.’”