Crime

Ex-CU Coach's Victim: Don't Slap His Wrist for Assaulting Me 100 Times

Pam Fine's petition about a potential Joe Tumpkin plea deal is illustrated with his booking photo.
Pam Fine's petition about a potential Joe Tumpkin plea deal is illustrated with his booking photo. change.org
Pam Fine, who filed a lawsuit last year over abuse allegedly suffered at the hands of former University of Colorado Boulder assistant football coach Joe Tumpkin, has launched a Change.org petition decrying the possibility that he will be offered a misdemeanor plea deal that she characterizes as a wrist slap.

In an excerpt from the petition, Fine writes, "I was assaulted over 100 times by former PAC 12 football coach, Joe Tumpkin, so why is Colorado’s 17th District Attorney’s office refusing to hold him accountable for the charges they gave him?"

Attorney Peter Ginsberg, who represents Fine in her lawsuit, elaborates on this question and its reference to 17th Judicial District DA Dave Young, who isn't commenting on the matter.

"We're very concerned about the prosecutor and the way the prosecutor has evaluated an appropriate resolution," says Ginsberg, speaking from Minneapolis. "Unfortunately, Pam realized early on, and increasingly so, that the district attorney's office was not prioritizing either her privacy or the abuse she had suffered. As a result, Pam has decided to exercise her right to do what she can to hopefully reach an appropriate resolution to the case."


In early 2017, Tumpkin was charged with five felony second-degree-assault counts and three misdemeanor third-degree-assault beefs. Then, that September, Fine sued Tumpkin, as well as CU head football coach Mike MacIntyre, athletic director Rick George, chancellor Phil DiStefano and president Bruce Benson (who has announced that he will retire from the position in 2019).

As Ginsberg told us last year, Fine "went back and forth for quite a while" regarding the decision to sue under her own name. "But ultimately, Pam decided she didn't want to be intimidated any longer, and she felt that she could better serve as a role model by taking a strong and, I think, quite brave stand."

Joe Tumpkin during his time coaching at Central Michigan, prior to his hiring by CU Boulder. - YOUTUBE FILE PHOTO
Joe Tumpkin during his time coaching at Central Michigan, prior to his hiring by CU Boulder.
YouTube file photo
The suit makes plenty of powerful statements, too. Not only does it castigate Tumpkin for his behavior, but it holds MacIntyre and company responsible for bungling the matter in ways that mirror past mistakes made by CU Boulder, as outlined in a section titled "The University’s History of Mishandling Sex-Based Harassment and Assault."

CU essentially acknowledged errors in the latest case circa June 2017, when DiStefano was suspended for ten days and both MacIntyre, to whom Fine first reached out, and George were ordered to make $100,000 donations to a domestic-violence fund. But in July, U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez ordered that the university and its employees be dropped from the suit, though he was also highly critical of their collective actions.

Meanwhile, Tumpkin's criminal case continued its slow movement through the system. But according to a new report in the Boulder Daily Camera, emails between Fine and Young's office indicate that the ex-coach "has been offered a plea deal that requires [that] Tumpkin only plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of third-degree assault."

Shortly thereafter, Fine started the petition. "She has shown enormous strength and fortitude throughout this process," Ginsberg notes, "and I'm sure she took this decision deliberately and seriously, and she's passionate about it, for good reason."

When asked if Fine believes the plea deal may have been affected by the general mishandling of domestic-violence offenses over time or the powerful role CU plays in the community, Ginsberg replies, "I think it's a combination of both. Clearly, nationwide, victims have historically not received appropriate relief from the justice system, and I think in this case in particular, the district attorney seems not to have pursued the case vigorously. The office has certainly not acted efficiently or effectively. But we have also been concerned throughout that the University of Colorado's influence has impacted the manner in which the prosecutors have gone about this case."

A preliminary hearing has been set for December 12, but, Ginsberg says, "I'm not sure that hearing will be held. In fact, I think it's extraordinary that the hearing hasn't happened yet. But I expect that the prosecutor is moving toward a resolution, and that's what precipitated Pam's decision to circulate the petition."

He adds, "The petition is Pam's — and I'm sure she hopes the message is sent to the prosecutor, and that he hears the message."

At this writing, the petition has collected more than 1,300 signatures toward a goal of 1,500. Continue to read it, as well as to access the lawsuit and the restraining order.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts