Haskins knew of prior allegations

by Todd Zolecki

Gregg Aamot

Gophers men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins said Wednesday that he knew of previous allegations of abuse against Courtney James months before the forward was arrested Saturday for assaulting his girlfriend. James had denied the allegations, however, and Haskins said he was confident that his player and the accuser, a former girlfriend, had reached a “mutually acceptable agreement.
“I hope that my trust in Courtney will prove justified but, regardless, I now feel the need to stand by him, get him any counseling help he needs and to see his current legal issues resolved,” Haskins said in a written statement.
Earlier this week, Haskins seemed to deny any knowledge of previous abuse allegations when questioned by men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart. Dienhart said Wednesday that he thinks Haskins did not admit knowledge of the alleged abuse because Haskins believed James’ denials.
“I asked (Haskins) if there were other cases of domestic abuse or violence that Courtney had been involved in,” Dienhart said. “So I’m sure that what he was responding with was what he understood to be Courtney’s position on it.”
James was arrested and charged with assaulting his girlfriend early Saturday morning. Later, reports surfaced that James was also accused of assaulting a former girlfriend and of harassing another woman last year.
The former girlfriend told the Star Tribune that she filed a protection order against James last summer after he allegedly assaulted her. The other woman told the newspaper that James harassed her with profane telephone calls last spring.
The woman who filed the protection order spoke with Dienhart on Tuesday and discussed the meeting that she and her parents held with James, Haskins and his staff last summer over the alleged abuse.
Besides Haskins’ initial denial of that alleged abuse, Dienhart said James told him he had not been involved in any previous cases of domestic abuse.
“I was informed by Courtney that he had not been involved in any previous situation of domestic abuse or violence and that he, presumably, disputes the allegation,” Dienhart told the Daily.
Dienhart said an internal investigation into the accusations against James is underway. Associate athletics director Jeff Schemmel will handle the investigation.
Dienhart said Haskins was under no obligation to tell him about the allegations against James or of the meeting with the woman and her parents. But he said that in the future he wants to be informed of any accusations of wrongdoing against University athletes.
“There’s no policy surrounding this sort of thing. But the fact of the matter was that the two (parties) reached a settlement and that the settlement superseded this temporary restraining order,” he said. “And according to what I understand, there’s no hearing for that temporary restraining order, so there was no judgment as to the validity of those allegations.”
Before it was revealed in a Star Tribune report Tuesday, Dienhart said he was not aware of the other woman’s allegation that James harassed her with repeated phone calls. Haskins also said in his written statement that he was unaware of the allegation of harassment.
Although Haskins is on the road recruiting, he said he believes the men’s athletics department is doing everything it can to handle the situation.
“I am deeply concerned and disappointed over the series of events that have resulted in the suspension of Courtney James from our basketball program,” the statement said. “His future with the program is obviously in serious jeopardy.”
After the internal investigation and legal issues surrounding James are resolved, Haskins and Dienhart will determine the sophomore’s future with the basketball program. James has been suspended from all activities involving the team and placed in a counseling program.
On Monday in Hennepin County District Court, James pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from last weekend, when his girlfriend says he hit her with a phone book, threw her to the floor and covered her mouth and nose with his hand.
Attorneys for James, a starting forward on this year’s Final Four team, have instructed him not to talk about Saturday’s arrest or previous allegations.