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Feds to eye response to Mont college sex assaultsFeds to investigate law enforcement, Montana college's response to sexual assault reports
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) ' The U.S. Justice Department plans to investigate the way police, prosecutors and the University of Montana deal with reports of sexual assaults after complaints that the allegations were not properly handled.
Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg, Mayor John Engen and Police Chief Mark Muir received letters Monday informing them of the investigation. Van Valkenberg said he also was visited by representatives of the agency's civil rights division.
The Justice Department was expected to announce the investigation Tuesday.
The investigation comes after the university in Missoula hired an outside investigator to look into reports of sexual assaults involving students, including alleged gang rapes in December 2010 and December 2011. The investigation uncovered nine alleged sexual assaults.
The investigations have indicated an association with patterns of behavior from a small number of student athletes, UM President Royce Engstrom said in January.
Four of the cases resulted in student conduct code action against eight students, and five were no longer in school, Engstrom said in March. Three appealed their sanctions.
He said three cases lacked evidence and two cases were not pursued by the victims.
In late March, a Montana football player was suspended after a woman sought a restraining order alleging rape. He was later allowed to practice after the restraining order was replaced with a civil "no-contact" order. No charges have been filed.
A sexual discrimination complaint was filed with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights against UM and its football program on Jan. 11, the Missoulian reported last month. The agency hasn't announced if it will investigate, but in late March, Engstrom relieved football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O'Day of their duties.
Suspended Montana running back Beau Donaldson has pleaded not guilty to a rape charge filed in January alleging he assaulted an aquaintance who was sleeping on his couch in September 2010.
A Saudi national left the country in February after school officials told him he was the subject of a rape investigation before a police report was made.
The federal investigation follows a series of efforts to address complaints that reports of sexual assault on and near the UM campus were not properly handled. The school has since made changes in its student and student-athlete conduct codes and reporting requirement for staffers, while the university and police began a campaign urging victims of sexual assault to call 911.
Engstrom said it was his understanding the university, Missoula police and the county attorney's office would be the focus.
"Whatever they want, we'll cooperate fully," Engstrom told the Missoulian.
Muir referred all questions to the Justice Department, but said he would be present when the announcement was made.
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