Football

UConn says coach aware of sex assault complaint

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Former Connecticut football coach Paul Pasqualoni said Wednesday he was never told that one of his players had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman on campus.

UConn's police chief disputes that assertion. Rosemary Richi, a junior, says she was raped by a football player in September 2011, and is one of four women who last week sued the university in federal court, alleging the school violated their rights by failing to properly respond to their accusations. She is also part of a complaint against the school filed last month with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

The AP does not normally name the alleged victims of sexual crimes unless they wish to be identified. Richi has gone public with her complaint. Reached by phone Wednesday, Pasqualoni, who was the coach both at the time of the incident and when the complaint was made earlier this year, told The Associated Press he was not contacted about the allegation.

"I was not ever informed," said Pasqualoni, who was fired earlier this season after his team started 0-4. "I was never made aware of anything. We never had those issues when I was there." UConn Police Chief Barbara O'Connor said the school notified the athletic department of the incident in June.

"The detective advised Mr. Pasqualoni a state's attorney from the Judicial District of Tolland had reviewed the investigation and determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the case," she said in an emailed statement.

The school said the athletic department is typically notified when an athlete is arrested or has a case before the Office of Community Standards. Pasqualoni said police routinely notified him in other cases when players got in trouble with the law.

"Absolutely they did," he said. "And there was no hesitation about it either." In the lawsuit, Richi said the assault occurred when she was a freshman, after she had drinks with the player in his room.

When she got up to leave, he pushed her down on his bed and raped her while his roommate slept in another bed, she alleges in the lawsuit. He then admonished her in person and in a text message not to tell anyone, according to her lawsuit.

Richi wrote about the attack in a blog, but did not report it to authorities until the spring of this year, according to her suit. She says she told police and the director of the school's women's center, who reported it to the Office of Diversity and Equity.

"I didn't feel comfortable telling anyone or reporting because of the overwhelming privilege of athletes on this campus," she said during an October news conference announcing the civil rights complaint.

Richi said after she reported the rape, a UConn police detective told her he did not believe her story, and failed to interview key witnesses. His report included the wrong date of the assault and was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, she said.

She was eventually told by police there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case and it would be dropped, she said. The athletic department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But school spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said UConn stands by the statement it gave when Richi and the other women filed their civil rights complaint.

"We always must be mindful of the rights of the accused and the accuser while upholding our commitment to protecting the safety of our campus community," she said. "We are confident at this point that these cases were handled thoroughly, swiftly and appropriately."

Richi's attorney, Gloria Allred, disagrees. She said there was no hearing and the football player did not receive any punishment. "UConn's response or lack of response under these circumstances raises the question of whether or not athletes receive special treatment," she said in an email. "It makes some victims wonder if athletes are afforded more rights than rape victims, because athletes may be considered to be of more value to a university than the female students that they victimize."

The Associated Press tried to ask interim football coach T.J. Weist about the program's policy for handling sexual misconduct allegations. But athletic department Mike Enright stepped in during Weist's Tuesday press briefing, and did not allow him to answer.

Linebacker Yawin Smallwood, a team captain, disputed any assertion that a culture exists that would allow an athlete to get away with rape. "I definitely don't feel athletes believe they can get away with anything," Smallwood said. "Guys are respectful to everyone around campus. We take pride, and we know we're privileged to have everything we have here and we know it can be taken away from us."

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