FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) –
UPDATE 8:25 p.m.: CSU sent CBS4 Investigates the following comment: “While CSU generally does not comment on pending litigation, some allegations against CSU regarding the university’s response to this matter are factually inaccurate. CSU took appropriate measures to protect the student before its formal investigation into her allegations even began. CSU’s first priority is the safety and wellbeing of our students.”
A Colorado State University student is suing the university after she claims she was sexually assaulted by a wealthy donor while working as a waitress at football games last fall. The student, who spoke exclusively with CBS4 Investigates, says the school failed to take appropriate action.
While it is typically CBS4 policy to not identify victims of sexual assault, Katelyn Schiller agreed to share her identity both in the lawsuit against CSU and with CBS4 in hopes her story will protect future students.
Schiller said she loved her job working as a waitress at the CSU football stadium. She had worked there for a year, and said it was a great experience. That all changed in fall of 2019 when she claims prominent donor, Michael Best, husband of local radio personality and realtor Susie Wargin, touched her inappropriately and called her vulgar names while she was serving him in his private loge box.
“It was pretty jaw dropping I guess you could say, I definitely wasn’t expecting it, it was my second year at school, and I was ready to come back and be more secure, academically and personally, and these individuals just kind of destroyed that,” Schiller said.
In the lawsuit, Schiller claims Best grabbed her upper thigh so hard it caused bruises. She claims Best assaulted her during three different football games.
“There was just lots of touching,” Schiller told CBS4. “The word b**** was just flying from his mouth quite often.”
Best’s attorney says those accusations are false.
Schiller tells CBS4 Investigates she reported the alleged assaults to her employer, Spectra, a company contracted by CSU which manages the suites, immediately after the second and third games.
At the third game, Schiller claims in the lawsuit that one of Best’s friends, Scott Schell, touched her on her private parts and caressed her hips. Schell wrote in an email to CBS4 that those accusations are false.
“That one was honestly just straight embarrassing, because at that point multiple people within Spectra and CSU athletics had known about the incident, and they clearly didn’t care, and they kept putting me in the position to be assaulted,” Schiller said.
Emails referenced in the lawsuit, and obtained by CBS4 Investigates, show Susie Wargin sent an email to CSU defending her husband, writing in part, “I write a lot of checks to athletics and the university. We have been nothing but stand up alumns and supporters for decades.”
Schiller says CSU Athletics made the decision to upgrade Best to a presidential box, so she wouldn’t have to see him at another game.
“I went to police when athletics basically told me they weren’t going to do anything about it, and they thought that their solution moving him to the presidential level auxiliary suite was going to be good enough,” Schiller said.
According to a report filed by the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office, investigators found Schiller to be “credible and she was subjected to unwanted sexual contact,” but investigators felt because the school had failed to report the assault to police in a timely manner, and failed to retain surveillance video of the loge box, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the case.
The DA’s office told CBS4 Investigates it could not comment, as the statute of limitations on the case have not yet run out, and the office could conceivably revisit the case if new evidence were to come to light.
Birk Baumgartner, one of Schiller’s attorneys, believes it was critical for the school to preserve any video evidence that may have existed as soon as Schiller reported the allegations, instead of allowing the video to be written over after 14 days, as is the typical retention period.
Baumgartner said he has not heard from CSU’s president since taking the case, despite sending the president’s office two letters regarding the issue.
“They clearly do not care about this, if it’s not worth a phone call from the president, I think that tells you all you need to know,” Baumgartner said.
CSU told CBS4 Investigates it could not comment on ongoing litigation. However, a day after the story aired, CSU sent CBS4 Investigates the following comment: “While CSU generally does not comment on pending litigation, some allegations against CSU regarding the university’s response to this matter are factually inaccurate. CSU took appropriate measures to protect the student before its formal investigation into her allegations even began. CSU’s first priority is the safety and wellbeing of our students.”
An attorney representing Best and Wargin wrote to CBS4 Investigates, “my client fully cooperated with law enforcement and they correctly declined this case. We expect the same result in the civil justice system.”
Scott Schell also wrote to CBS4 Investigates, “The accusations listed against me are absolutely false. I fully cooperated with law enforcement in Fort Collins, who came to the same conclusion. I will continue to cooperate during the civil proceedings – and I fully expect the same outcome.”
The lawsuit also alleges Spectra demoted Schiller to working in the pantry, instead of working as a server.
“It’s a very clear signal, if you complain against the rich donors, we’re going to shove you into the pantry,” Baumgartner said. “There’s no doubt that’s a classic case of retaliation.”
Schiller decided to quit her job instead of taking the new position.
“The lawsuit has happened, because I feel like this is my last resort, this is the last thing that I can do to get the justice that I deserve,” Schiller said. “It felt like I was being gaslighted every single day, because I was working these jobs that I loved, and these men that I didn’t know were touching me, and then I was telling these people, who were supposed to protect me, or at least follow measures to attempt to protect me, and they just weren’t doing them, they just repeatedly kept ignoring what I was telling them, and then be put in the spot to be assaulted over and over again.”
Now Schiller is looking to take her lawsuit to trial, hoping to make policy changes at the school.
“I just want the best for the future and all of the individuals who are going to go through the CSU institution, and I’m doing this to ensure this isn’t going to happen to somebody else,” Schiller said.
Spectra said it could not comment on ongoing litigation, however it also said, “Spectra takes all situations related to our team members seriously, as we respect our employees and value them as the lifeblood of our operation.”
To read the full complaint, click here.