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Regents re-open University of Iowa rape investigation

  • Story Highlights
  • Board of Regents reopens investigation of university officials' handling of rape case
  • President received letters from mother of alleged rape victim, didn't give to board
  • In October 2007, woman reported assault by two Hawkeye football players
  • Athletics director: Investigation will find staff followed correct steps
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By Alyssa Cashman
The Daily Iowan
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Alyssa Cashman is a writer for The Daily Iowan, the leading news source for University of Iowa. This article was brought to CNN.com by UWIRE, the leading provider of student-generated content. UWIRE aims to identify and promote the brightest young content creators and deliver their work to a larger audience via professional media partners such as CNN.com. Visit UWIRE.com to learn more.

University of Iowa President Sally Mason talks to the Board of Regents.

(UWIRE) -- The state Board of Regents has reopened its investigation into the University of Iowa's handling of an alleged rape by two of its football players.

The regents unanimously voted to re-examine how the university handled the accusation during a special meeting on the University of Iowa campus Tuesday.

The mother of a woman who reported she had been raped in a Hillcrest dorm room in October 2007 sent letters in November and May to school officials complaining about the school's handling of the case.

Those letters -- which President Sally Mason received copies of -- weren't turned over to the regents during the initial investigation, which concluded in June. In that investigation, the regents concluded that university officials had handled the situation correctly.

Now that the regents are aware of the letters, however, they want to know more.

"This is a serious breach of trust," Regent President David Miles said. "It undermines the credibility of the university and this board."

School officials say they welcome the second investigation, insisting that the findings will be the same as the earlier probe. The new report will be presented at the next regents' meeting, scheduled for September 18.

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On July 18, one of the letters from the mother was released. In the four-page letter, which Miles described as heart-wrenching, the mother contended that the university had mishandled her daughter's case.

University of Iowa officials have not disputed the letter's contents but insist there was no cover-up.

In October 2007, the woman reported she had been assaulted in a Hillcrest dorm by two then-Hawkeye football players, Abe Satterfield and Cedric Everson. The men left the team late last year.

After a trip to the hospital, she and her father went to the athletics department with the allegations. According to the letter, she was interviewed by Gary Barta, the Iowa athletics director, head football coach Kirk Ferentz, and Fred Mims, an associate athletics director.

The woman claims that she was pressured to keep the case "informal" or within the athletics department.

The mother wrote that the woman was told a "formal process" would be "long and arduous" compared with the "swift" informal process led by the athletics department.

Satterfield and Everson were both charged with second-degree sexual abuse six months after the incident. Satterfield was also charged with third-degree sexual abuse.

The first letter was dated November 19, 2007, and was sent to various university officials. Mason said she saw the letter around Thanksgiving. Another letter was sent in May directly to Mason. Neither letter was given to the regents, a move that put into question the manner in which the investigation was handled.

The letter sent in May has not been released yet, University of Iowa Spokesman Steve Parrott said.

The original reasoning for not handing over the letters, Mason said, was an interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This act gives parents and students the right to protect their educational records.

"This original thinking ... is just not tenable," Mason said, apologizing to the regents. "There is no excuse for the failure to turn over those letters as part of the [first] investigation."

Mason was informed of the misinterpretation by Marcus Mills, the University of Iowa vice president for Legal Affairs and the school's general counsel, but who initially made the mistake was not disclosed. Mason apologized profusely for the incident to the regents and the family.

She declined to comment on whether safety policies were changed after the first letter in November.

In the letter, the woman also contends that the woman's father attempted to call Mason on November 5. That phone call was never returned.

Tom Evans, investigator and general counsel to the regents, attempted to contact the family after the case surfaced. The family declined to talk with him.

Barta, who attended the meeting, said he welcomed the second investigation, and he was confident that the regents would find that his staff had followed the correct steps.

"Again, it has been very challenging to not be able to tell the full story," Barta said in a statement issued after the meeting. "It has been especially trying the past few days as the integrity and character of Kirk Ferentz, President Mason, [and myself] has been publicly challenged."

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