Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Screwed for Life

No question, Kumbe Ginnane lied.

At least twice.

He lied when University of Colorado cops, and then the Boulder District Attorney's Office, asked if he'd had sexual contact with a coed on October 19, 1990. No, he said then, he hadn't had sex of any kind with her. He told that to a jury in October 1992, too.

And he lied in May 1993, when he told a judge that he'd actually sexually assaulted the woman -- an admission that got him out of Cañon City in exchange for eight years of probation. Or he lied in 2001, when he said he'd only confessed to the judge so that he could get out of jail, but then realized that eight years of probation as a convicted sex offender was really a lifetime sentence of never-ending hell, and that he'd rather go back to prison.

This is no lie: "Yes, I was an asshole," Ginnane writes in his self-published book, From Regret to Rape. "But I unquestionably did not deserve what was in store for thirteen years."

Here's what Ginnane says is the truth about that night in October 1990. His sophomore roommate, Detric Devonn Garvin, had gone partying at a sorority whose members were legendary for their sexual enthusiasms, then brought a female student back to their dorm room -- along with some tacos and condoms they'd picked up at a convenience store. "Threesome," Ginnane thought, every guy's fantasy. When Garvin went to get a condom, the woman -- who'd obviously been drinking but didn't seem that drunk -- put her hand down Ginnane's pants, then took his penis in her mouth. Fifteen seconds later, there was a knock on the door: Ginnane's girlfriend, Kristin. While his roommate ran interference, Ginnane collected his clothes and his books and then went to Kristin's room, where he spent the night.

It was because of his girlfriend that he didn't want to admit to even fifteen seconds of oral sex. So Ginnane was relieved when word seeped out that the woman had bragged to her sorority sisters about having sex with a black man but mentioned only Garvin, not Ginnane. She continued to occasionally stop by their room. Ginnane told her she was acting like a "ho."

Then, as now, casual sex is almost a rite of passage at college -- with a river of alcohol running through many of the stories. And then, as now, casual sex with athletes, often black athletes, is the stuff of constant campus conversation at the University of Colorado. In 1989, the year Ginnane left home in Denver to enroll at CU, everyone was talking about another football scandal -- this one involving then-coach Bill McCartney's teenage daughter, who was pregnant. Several football players took paternity tests; it turned out the baby's father was Sal Aunese, the Samoan quarterback who would soon die of cancer.

For black athletes -- or big black guys who looked like athletes -- sex was pretty free and easy in Boulder, and the identities of willing partners were common knowledge. "You were going to gain attention up there," remembers Greg Thomas, a football player who was in Ginnane's fraternity. "If you were an African-American male, people assumed that you were an athlete. Hooking up just kind of went with the territory."

But in the spring of 1991, right after Ginnane won a coveted spot as a resident advisor -- a job that the woman had also sought -- word began leaking out that what had happened in that dorm room six months before had involved more than hooking up. "I thought of how I wanted this fucking, spite-saturated, false rape allegation to go away as fast as possible," Ginnane writes. "I thought, 'What if I just deny the sex act?' I lied." He lied to a campus cop, he lied to his girlfriend. He told his mother that the cops were just interested in Garvin. He couldn't believe that what he considered clearly consensual could turn into an accusation of rape.

He talked to his brother, Tunde, who was two years ahead of him at CU, a resident advisor himself. Tunde couldn't imagine his brother getting in trouble for what seemed like common college behavior. "He wasn't the type of guy who'd force a girl to do anything," he says. "There are girls falling at his feet all the time."

And then one night in October 1991, Ginnane and Kristin went to Denver for his sister's eleventh birthday party, and "our phone started ringing," says JuJu Maisha Nkrumah, his mother. "People said that Kumbe was on the news. They were saying that he was wanted and 'at large.'" Not so "at large" that she hadn't been able to reach him at his dorm room earlier that day, but at large as far as the media was concerned.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun