Former CU Buffs football assistant Joe Tumpkin sentenced in domestic violence case

  • Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer

    Former University of Colorado assistant football coach Joe Tumpkin wipes a tear from his eye while listening to a family friend speak on his behalf during his sentencing Thursday in Broomfield.

  • Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer

    Former University of Colorado assistant football coach Joe Tumpkin walks out of the courtroom with his attorney Jon Banashek after being sentenced to 30 days in jail and 30 months probation on Thursday.



Former University of Colorado assistant football coach Joe Tumpkin was sentenced to 30 days in jail for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, but he will be able to serve his jail sentence as work release.

Judge Michael Goodbee also sentenced Tumpkin to 30 months of probation at a Thursday sentencing hearing in Broomfield District Court that capped a years-long saga surrounded by a lot of what Goodbee referred to as “noise.”

“I understand that there is a university that is tied in in some fashion and a football program, and I understand there was a county court appeal, I understand there was a Supreme Court case,” Goodbee said. “Frankly, I don’t care. We’re not in court because of those things, we’re in court because Mr. Tumpkin committed a violent assault. That’s what this is about.”

Goodbee did put a 10-day delay on the sentence so Tumpkin could organize the work release. Tumpkin and his attorneys did not comment on the sentence after leaving the courtroom.

Tumpkin pleaded guilty Feb. 1 in Broomfield to one count of misdemeanor third-degree domestic violence assault against his ex-girlfriend, Pamela Fine, who was at the hearing on Thursday.

The plea itself was a contentious subject, as Fine objected to the deal as being too lenient and was highly critical of the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case. Tumpkin was originally charged with five felony counts of second-degree assault and three misdemeanor counts of assault.

“It’s just a really sad ending,” Fine said following the hearing. “There were no winners, no losers. It’s just painful.”

After the hearing, 17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young said the decision to make the plea offer was based on an assessment of how the case would go at trial.

“The evidence we had in this case is really Ms. Fine’s word,” Young said. “We wholeheartedly believe Ms. Fine that these events happened to her, but we don’t get to be on the jury.”

‘I am a survivor of Joe Tumpkin’

According to an arrest affidavit, Fine told police Tumpkin assaulted her more than 100 times between February 2015 and November 2016 while they were dating.

As Fine stood before Goodbee, she told Goodbee about the last time she had seen Tumpkin before Thursday, when he abused her for the last time.

“We’re here today because I finally didn’t go back,” Fine said. “I knew that he had gotten to a place where I couldn’t reach him.”

Tumpkin, in his first public comments since his arrest, apologized to Fine for “forcefully taking electronic devices from Ms. Fine in a way that caused her harm.”

“I want to apologize to Ms. Fine, her family, and her friends for how our relationship dissolved.”

But Fine said any apologies from Tumpkin rang hollow, as she felt he was still minimizing his actions, and asked Goodbee to sentence him to the maximum two years of jail time.

“I have been Joe Tumpkin’s victim, but when I leave here today, I will never carry that title anymore: I am a survivor of Joe Tumpkin,” Fine said. “I survived three years with him. I survived the beatings and the choking and the abuse. My concern is that if you do not sentence him to the maximum penalty, my fear is if you do not do this your honor, that the next woman he dates will not be able to say they are a survivor of Joe Tumpkin.”

The probation department and prosecutor Trevor Moritzky did not take a stance on jail time, and Tumpkin’s attorney Jon Banashek said a probation-only sentence was common in cases like Tumpkin’s. But Goodbee said in many of those cases, the victims asked for lighter sentence. He noted that Fine had a right to be heard in her case.

“Hopelessness did not define you in this case,” Goodebee told Fine. “You managed to escape a fog of violence and the fog of any learned helplessness. You regained your voice and your voice has been strong and impactful, not just on yourself but on others.

“I think when you leave today, you should leave with your head held high. You have undertaken actions in good faith in an attempt to make systems more accountable in their conduct I hope that when you leave today, you leave knowing your voice was heard, whether you agree or disagree with what I say.”

But Goodbee also said Tumpkin had many redeeming qualities, noting he had no criminal record and had taken it upon himself to seek counseling. Goodbee ordered more domestic violence evaluation and treatment as part of the probation, and also ordered Tumpkin not drink or use drugs.

“Your efforts in immediately undertaking counseling to get to why you did these things and try to prevent the potential they could ever happen again is worthy of commendation,” Goodbee said.

Tumpkin told the court he would take what he has learned going forward.

“I feel that I am ready to move forward with my life, and will work to make myself a better role model.”

‘Embarrassing attention’

While Goodbee dismissed it as noise, the role of CU was nevertheless woven into the fabric of this case. Tumpkin was eventually dismissed from CU when the allegations went public, but the university’s handling of the initial allegations by Fine when they were told to then-coach Mike MacIntyre resulted in an investigation that led to fines for MacIntyre and Athletic Director Rick George and a suspension for Chancellor Phil DiStefano.

Fine said she never intended for the case to get this far, and only told MacIntyre about Tumpkin because she was worried he would hurt himself or others.

“I didn’t want him in trouble, I loved Joe Tumpkin with all my heart,” Fine said. “I wanted that family to protect Joe.”

Tumpkin, after apologizing to Fine in court, apologized in court to CU, DiStefano, George and MacIntyre for the “embarrassing attention” the case brought the university.

Banashek in his comments to the judge said attention is what made the relationship toxic and is what Fine was seeking when she made the allegations.

“When she was not invited to football games, did not take her rightful place in the rise of Colorado football, when she realized she was left out, things escalated,” Banashek said, saying Fine had filed a civil suit and gave multiple media interviews.

Young also said those things would have played a factor had they gone to trial.

“We avoided Ms. Fine going through a trial and being accused of much of the things the defense attorney said at the sentencing hearing,” Young said.

But Fine told Goodbee she has never wavered because she told the truth from the beginning.

“I understand the plea deal has been given and accepted, and I understand five felonies are gone forever, but it doesn’t change the fact that they happened,” Fine told the court. “I’m not crazy, I was a battered woman who tried to protect an abuser. I am no longer a battered woman. I am strong. They can’t intimidate me no matter how hard they try, they can’t scare me off. It’s not for me, it’s for the women who come after me.”