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Joe Tumpkin accuser files lawsuit against Tumpkin, Mike MacIntyre, other Colorado officials

FILE – In this Oct. 3, 2015, file photo, Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre, left, has heated words with assistant coach Joe Tumpkin during a game against Oregon. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

The woman who accused former Colorado assistant coach Joe Tumpkin of abuse filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tumpkin, Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre, athletic director Rick George, CU president Bruce Benson and CU chancellor Phil DiStefano.

The suit, which was filed in Denver district court, alleges assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Tumpkin and negligence and civil conspiracy against MacIntyre, George, Benson and DiStefano. The woman, Pamela Fine, decided to “proceed using her identity rather than a pseudonym as a show of strength against past intimidation,” her attorney, Peter R. Ginsberg, said in a statement.

Fine has said on multiple occasions — once in great detail to Sports Illustrated — that the university failed to act properly when she told school officials, MacIntyre first via a Dec. 9 phone call, of the alleged abuse she was suffering at the hands of Tumpkin, her ex-boyfriend and CU’s safeties coach in 2015 and 2016 who was elevated to interim defensive coordinator for the 2016 Alamo Bowl (on Dec. 29). Tumpkin, who resigned in January, is facing eight charges, including five felonies. Fine alleges Tumpkin physically abused her multiple times between February 2015 and November 2016.

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“When she finally was able to break free of Tumpkin’s grip, our client reached out to a person close to Tumpkin and, she believed, herself – Head Football Coach Mike MacIntyre – seeking help for Tumpkin and protection for herself and others in the University community. Rather than responding as the law and University procedures require, and as decency would dictate, MacIntyre instead reacted by blocking our client’s communications and deciding not to alert law enforcement or University officials specifically designated to handle these situations,” Ginsberg’s statement says.

“Instead, MacIntyre plotted with those he knew placed athletics above protecting the University community: Athletic Director Rick George; Chancellor Philip DiStefano; and, President Bruce Benson. Collectively, they decided to ignore our client, find legal assistance for Tumpkin – from a lawyer who then directly contacted and tried to intimidate our client – and to promote Tumpkin to Defensive Coordinator for the important, and lucrative, post-season Alamo Bowl.”

Per the Boulder Daily Camera, CU issued a statement denying the claims made in the lawsuit.

“The claims in the lawsuit are not well-founded factually or legally, and we will defend our employees aggressively,” CU spokesman Ken McConnellogue said.

Colorado hired outside law firms to conduct an independent investigation into how the university handled the accusations against Tumpkin, which became public after Fine filed a restraining order against the coach on Dec. 20, 2016. Tumpkin formally resigned from his position in late January and was charged a few days later.

The investigation found several mistakes in the way CU handled the allegations, specifically with the way the university reported the allegations to law enforcement and supervised Tumpkin, but concluded there was no intent to cover up the claims. As a result of the investigation, Benson issued a 10-day suspension to DiStefano while directing George and MacIntyre to make separate $100,000 donations to funds “addressing domestic violence issues.” The three were also reprimanded and subjected to further training.

After Tumpkin was formally charged and had resigned from his position, MacIntyre said he allowed Tumpkin to serve as defensive coordinator (and call plays) for the bowl game after hearing from Fine “because, at the time of the decision, there was no police report or legal complaint.”

MacIntyre, who led the Buffs to a Pac-12 South title in 2016, had a $16.25 million contract extension he had signed months earlier approved by CU’s Board of Regents a few days after the results of the investigation were publicized. 

“Rather than taking seriously the outside investigators’ conclusion that MacIntyre and George had violated their University employment contracts and could be terminated, the University instead awarded MacIntyre with a multi-million dollar contract extension,” Ginsberg said in his statement.

“Initially, our client had no intention of pursuing a lawsuit against these people. Only when it became clear to her that the University had no intention of taking the matter seriously and that the criminal justice system had become mired in inactivity for inexplicable reasons, she realized she had to rely on herself to right the wrong she has endured and to do her best to make sure no one else would endure such abuse again.”

Ginsberg also issued a statement directly from Fine:

On December 9, 2016 when I reached out to Coach MacIntyre, it was out of fear for Joe, myself, other women, the players, and the community of Boulder because Joe had become very dangerous to himself and others. I didn’t want to publicly hurt Joe, the coaching staff and their wives, and all the Colorado football players who had worked so hard to get to their first bowl game. I wanted to protect my abuser and the people around him.

I finally picked up the phone to tell my truth to a trusted leader whom I believed would help Joe. Instead, I unintentionally walked into a world that I had read about but did not believe. For that, I apologize to every survivor whom I secretly questioned in my head as I read their stories of being marginalized and re-victimized by the machine of college athletics.

So, this is no longer about protecting the man who abused me and the powerful men who decided not to do what they were morally, contractually, and legally required to do. I am no longer protecting the men who silence victims in the name of winning football games. I am now standing up for the young women who sit in my office, where I am a Dean in a large, public high school, every day getting ready to go off to college. They deserve to be safe. They deserve to be heard. They deserve a different future than the women who came before them. My voice is now for them.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!