UM curators hire St. Louis law firm to investigate Menu Courey case

Friday, February 14, 2014 | 12:14 p.m. CST; updated 5:16 p.m. CST, Friday, February 14, 2014

COLUMBIA — The UM System Board of Curators has hired a St. Louis law firm to investigate the way MU handled reports that former student-athlete Sasha Menu Courey was assaulted by football players.

The Dowd Bennett Law Firm will seek to determine whether university employees acted consistently with university policy and legal statutes in the case, according to an announcement released Friday. The firm is scheduled to report its findings to the curators April 11.

Partly based on a journal entry by Menu Courey stating she was sexually assaulted in February 2010, ESPN's "Outside the Lines" reported that MU was negligent in handling her case.

The board agreed to hire an independent counsel during its Jan. 29 meeting.

"Ms. Courey's story is heartbreaking, and our sympathy and prayers remain with her family, friends and teammates," chair of the Board of Curators Don Downing said in Friday's news release.

"The board believes that it is important to take an independent look at the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic event, and how it was handled by university employees."

Members of Dowd Bennett who will work on the investigation include Edward Dowd, Lisa Hoppenjans, Gabriel Gore, Jim Martin and Becky Powers. No members of the team are MU alumni, and the firm hasn't performed any previous work for the UM System.

The announcement noted that one of the lawyers had served as head of a sex crimes unit and inspector for the U.S. Postal Service. Another worked as an investigative reporter and has investigated another university's handling of sexual assault allegations. Two have served as U.S. attorneys and three as assistant U.S. attorneys.

"Our task from the Board of Curators is to do a complete investigation, get all the facts and report our findings promptly," Dowd said in the release.

Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.

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