Ex-girlfriend of Former CU Buffs Coach Joe Tumpkin on Legal System: ‘The Truth Hasn’t Mattered’
When Pam Fine walked into the Broomfield police station in December 2016 to report her then-boyfriend Joseph Tumpkin had assaulted her, Detective Dale Hammell assured her she was doing the right thing.
“He worked really hard on investigating the case, and he kept saying to me repeatedly, ‘This is hard, but I believe the truth wins,’” Fine said. “I held on to that for two years.”
But after two years, Fine is finding it harder and harder to hold on to those words. The case against Tumpkin, a former University of Colorado assistant, has been mostly mired in appeals and has yet to even make it out of county court. And now, on the eve of a preliminary hearing on the five felonies he is facing, Fine has been told by prosecutors Tumpkin has been offered a plea deal . Misdemeanor assault. No jail time.
“The truth hasn’t mattered,” Fine said.
Two years later, Fine said the justice system has failed her as a victim. And now, knowing how her case has gone, Fine looks back and isn’t sure she would have walked into that police station in 2016.
“I wouldn’t have stayed in this for two years, through the Colorado Supreme Court, through the turning over of my cellphone,” Fine said. “I wouldn’t have done that for two years for a misdemeanor. Because it’s really nothing.”
‘Difficult and flawed’
Tumpkin, 47, was charged in early 2017 with five counts of felony second-degree assault and three counts of misdemeanor third-degree assault after police said he assaulted Fine hundreds of times over the course of their relationship.
But shortly after he was charged, the case stalled as Tumpkin’s attorney, Jon Banashek, filed an appeal to get the same access to Fine’s cellphone as prosecutors.
Tumpkin’s appeal was finally granted in September 2018 , and he was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 12, at which time a judge would determine if there was enough evidence to finally move the case forward.
But emails between Fine and prosecutors from the 17th Judicial District obtained by the Daily Camera indicate prosecutors offered Tumpkin a plea deal as early as May, when Tumpkin’s case was still tied up in an appeal.
Fine said prosecutors told her they gave Tumpkin until Nov. 12 to accept the plea deal, which would dismiss the felonies, and vacate the preliminary hearing. The 17th Judicial District and Banashek have not commented on the case because it is ongoing.
But Fine has been vocal about her displeasure with the deal, even starting an online petition to try and get the DA’s Office to revoke the deal. The petition has more than 1,800 signatures.
Fine said she just wants Tumpkin to have one felony assault charge on his record, which would prevent him from coaching or working in schools.
“I think that was fair, one felony out of five,” Fine said. “I don’t think that is being vindictive or bitter. It truly aligns with what I have said from the beginning, which is that I want everyone to be safe, including Joe and me and women he comes into contact with, and children.”
But Fine said she has not heard from the DA’s Office since she posted the petition. Not that she is surprised.
“Obviously, they were very aware of the fact that I’m upset over the misdemeanor,” Fine told the Daily Camera on Friday. “I’ve made that clear in conversations with them and in emails with them.”
So for Fine, posting the petition and publicly talking about her disappointment with the deal is as much about future cases as it is about hers.
“I’m just really trying to bring about change and have a voice, because I haven’t felt like I’ve had much of a voice in the process,” Fine said. “It’s the only avenue I thought I had.
“I don’t want Nov. 12 to have come and gone and not have exercised very possible avenue in getting it changed. I’m not sure if the petition has any effect whatsoever or will make a difference with my situation. But hopefully it will raise awareness for victims and victims’ rights groups, that despite doing everything that you are ‘supposed to do’ when you’ve been assaulted, the process is still incredibly difficult and flawed.”
‘I hope somebody can change my mind’
Even as she hopes talking about the process might bring about positive change, it has hurt Fine to see her case stall out. She watched Tumpkin get a de-facto promotion weeks after her allegations and before he was fired following media reports of the protection orders she took out against him.
She watched three of the men who knew about the allegations — Athletic Director Rick George, Chancellor Phil DiStefano and Head Coach Mike MacIntyre — get suspensions and fines but keep their jobs. MacIntyre even received a new, multi-million-dollar contract.
But through all of the talk of appeals and plea deals and Title IX requirements, one question has become almost an afterthought: Did Joseph Tumpkin assault Pamela Fine?
“That has been the hardest part,” Fine said. “I was assaulted numerous times, hundreds of times, by Joe Tumpkin. Through all of this, the one thing that has been lost is the truth.”
Fine said she has been grateful for all the work of Broomfield police, particularly Hammell.
“There was a really good, honorable person in all of this,” Fine said. “I focus on that, that there are people in the criminal justice system who really do care and fight for the truth.”
Fine said she also has met some amazing people who have offered her support and solidarity, and helped her grow as a person throughout the ordeal.
“It’s been really disheartening and difficult, but I am much stronger than I was two years ago,” Fine said. “I see things more clearly. I no longer see (Tumpkin) as a man that I love that was broken. I see him as an abuser. I don’t think anymore like a victim of domestic violence, where I was easily manipulated.
“My family and my friends and time and becoming healthy have helped me to see it differently, to process all of it.”
But that will serve as little consolation for Fine should Tumpkin walk away with only a misdemeanor.
“I don’t know what winning means in this scenario. I don’t know that there is a winner in this situation,” Fine said. “But I know that nobody is safer. Nobody’s lives are better. And the system is not less corrupt than it was.”
When Fine looks at her case, she can’t help but view it through the lens of a survivor weighing whether or not to come forward.
“If I had followed this case in the news, I would not have come forward, and I worry about that,” Fine said. “I work with young girls who have been assaulted, and I have always been an advocate for getting them the help they need and going through the process. But now, I can’t in good conscience tell someone I know to come forward, and that makes me sad.
“I hope somebody can change my mind.”
Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/mitchellbyars