Special prosecutor to review rape case

By: Bill Bowden
Published: Tuesday, November 3, 2009

— A special prosecutor will be appointed to review the case of three Arkansas Razorbacks basketball players accused by an 18-year-old woman of raping her at a University of Arkansas fraternity party.

Washington County prosecutor John Threet requested the special prosecutor Monday after the woman’s attorney questioned Threet’s ethics, citing his relationships with members of the university’s athletic department.

Former Athletic Director Frank Broyles is Threet’s stepfather-in-law. Threet’s sister-in-law is married to Kevin Trainor, the university’s associate athletic director for media relations and communications.

Threet said his family had nothing to do with his decision not to file charges against the athletes. He said sexual activity took place between the woman - a university student - and athletes in a room at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house on Aug. 27 but there was no evidence the sex wasn’t consensual.

Threet said his request for a special prosecutor was an attempt to shorten a protracted legal process set in motion last week by John D. Bass of Fayetteville, who represents the woman and her father.

Threet said his request means a special prosecutor will be appointed soon. Exactly when the appointment will be made or who the special prosecutor will be has yet to be determined.

“The victim and her family are hopeful that a thorough and unbiased investigation will be conducted, and we will be concentrating our efforts on that,” Bass said via e-mail.

Circuit Judge William Storey signed the order Monday approving Threet’s request. Bob McMahan, Arkansas’ prosecutor coordinator, will recommend a special prosecutor, and Storey will decide whether to appoint that person. McMahan said that could happen as early as today.

Bass filed a petition Oct. 27 in Washington County Circuit Court asking for a special prosecutor, arguing that the investigation shouldn’t have been conducted wholly within the university, which has a financial stake in its outcome, and that Threet has a conflict of interest because of his family.

In his petition, Bass stated that an examination of the woman and her clothes indicated the presence of semen, but the UA Police Department and county prosecutor’s office didn’t take samples from the accused athletes.

A match could prove the athletes lied to police, Bass wrote. That might indicate they lied about consent, too, he said.

Bass noted that lying to police is a crime. It could be considered hindering apprehension or prosecution under Arkansas Code Annotated 5-54-105 or obstructing governmental operations under Arkansas Code Annotated 5-54-102.

Circuit Judge Kim Smith recused himself from the case, saying the other five circuit judges in Arkansas’ 4th Judicial District informed him they would do the same because “Threet and/or his deputies regularly appear before them.”

In his order of recusal, Smith wrote that he would ask Chief Justice Jim Hannah of the Arkansas Supreme Court to appoint a judge to decide whether a special prosecutor is warranted.

Threet said the process could have dragged on for months, and a special prosecutor probably wouldn’t have been appointed based on Bass’ petition.

Bass cited Arkansas Code Annotated 16-21-112, which states that a special prosecutor can be appointed if a regular prosecutor “neglects, or fails from sickness or any other cause, to attend any of the courts of the district for which he was elected and to prosecute as required by law.”

Threet said Bass is accusing him of having a conflict of interest, not failure to show up for court.

“That statute is more for when a prosecutor is not attending court or doing work,” said Threet, referring to the law cited by Bass.

Threet said he doesn’t object to a special prosecutor reviewing the case.

“I didn’t see a downside to it for anyone involved,” Threet said. “I just didn’t see an end in sight down the path it was going.”

University spokesman Steve Voorhies said the university had no comment on the investigation.

Arkansas, Pages 7 on 11/03/2009

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