IN PARADISE VALLEY, COTTON IS KING

NFL LINEBACKER MARCUS COTTON MAY HAVE RAPED AN ASU CO-ED. TOO BAD THE COPS DON'T CARE.

McFarland declined comment to New Times. Our policy is not to have officers discuss individual cases," says Sergeant Ron Warner.

The most troubling theory about the Paradise Valley investigation attributes police failings to racism. Shannon Smith's older brother, Phil, says he was unprepared at first to look at it that way, even though his sister and Marcus Cotton are black and Paradise Valley is overwhelmingly white. (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the wealthy suburb is about 12,000. Fifteen Paradise Valley residents are black. Warner says the Cotton case is the first in memory in which one black accused another of a crime.)

Phil's talks with Brian McFarland after his sister, Shannon, allegedly was raped, however, convinced him that Paradise Valley's failure to investigate was racially motivated.

Paradise Valley police sergeant Ron Warner bristles at the accusation. This has absolutely no connection to race at all," he says. We look at things on a case-by-case basis, without regard to race."

Tell me," responds Phil, a Los Angeles-based financial planner, if she had been a little Paradise Valley princess with blond hair, blue eyes, the police wouldn't have been down Marcus Cotton's throat? I wasn't brought up to look for racism where there isn't any. But his attitude about my sister was, `She's a slut, pal.' She was just another black girl and they couldn't give a damn."

SHANNON SMITH LOOKS straight at her visitor and gets to the point. Just because you go to a party late at night with some girlfriends doesn't mean you want it. I didn't want to have sex with himÏno wayÏand I didn't lead him on, not one bit."

She has consentedÏalbeit anonymously-to tell the full story of the incident described in police reports by two agencies. At first, she practically whispers the most embarrassing parts in a monotone common to victims of violent crime.

After a time, however, she warms to her visitor and reveals an exuberant, feisty nature she says has been mostly buried since the events of last July 6. The rape-counseling sessions she's been attending for months have helped, as have her close-knit family and circle of friends.

Shannon's lawyer, Bill Moore, is preparing to sue Marcus Cotton, but Shannon insists she's not after Cotton's money. She contacted Moore just last month, after private investigator Paul Huebl-whose unrelated civil lawsuit against Brian McFarland and Paradise Valley is pendingÏheard of her story and called her.

An attractive, light-skinned black woman with a shy smile and quick wit, Shannon says she hopes to find a job in public relations after graduating from ASU next year. The youngest child of a middle-class Tempe couple with whom she still lives, Shannon describes herself as a happy person who has been trying to get my spirit back to what it was before Marcus."

She recalls meeting Cotton in mid-1990 at the Jockey Club in central Phoenix. At first, he tried to conceal his status as a pro athlete, telling her he was a sheriff from Atlanta in town visiting relatives.

She says it was weeks before she learned Cotton, not his uncle, owned the Mercedes he drove. She also learned Cotton played pro football. I know about athletes and how they act, how they use women," Shannon says. But when I met him, he seemed intelligent and he was just fun."

As the weeks went along, however, there were some disquieting signs. He'd call me from his car phone in my driveway at one in the morning," she recalls. My dad didn't like that. And when we went to a club together, he didn't like me to speak with other guys. He was extremely jealous."

One of Marcus Cotton's best friends, however, puts a radically different spin on the relationship. Terry Hicks is the principal owner of a Tempe nightspot that Cotton helped finance. She never really dated Marcus," says Hicks, who has known Shannon and her family for years. If she wanted to come over and have sex with Marcus, that was fine. She's always dated athletes, so she has a track record. To a certain extent, she's considered a slut because she sleeps around a lot."

Shannon responds bitterly when told of Hicks' remarks: It hurts and it's a lie, but I know where Terry is coming from because he's so close to Marcus. I have dated athletes and I have had relationships with athletes. But I'm a normal college girl, and Terry cannot say I was promiscuous. And the point is, I was raped."

Shannon says the last time she had consensual sex with Marcus Cotton was in July 1990, a year before he allegedly raped her. Soon after that, Cotton reported to training camp with the Atlanta Falcons. When he left, it was like, `I'll see you around' for both of us," Shannon says. I really liked him a lot when we were dating, but my heart wasn't set on him or anything close to that."

The two spoke on the telephone a few times" during the 1990 football season, Shannon says, but the romance had cooled. Still, in early 1991, she and her girlfriends attended a few parties at Cotton's home in Paradise Valley.

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