(This post is intended for those in the career college sector and for the former employees of CollegeAmerica and the Center for Excellence in Higher Education. This is an update. Others can safely skip this post. Feel free to share this.)
Former Colorado Assistant Attorney General, Olivia “Libby” DeBlasio-Webster, is a far-left political activist now working for Student Defense, an organization dedicated to crippling and closing private career colleges.
DeBlasio-Webster had a list of private career colleges that she wanted to cripple or close. First among these was Westwood Career Colleges, from whom she extorted many millions of dollars as a settlement. Subsequently, they closed.
She then prosecuted Ashford University, which settled a lawsuit for many millions of dollars. One of the colleges I owned at the time, CollegeAmerica, was next on her list. In an attempt to find wrongdoing, she conducted a massive years-long investigation that was crippling for the college and cost millions of dollars.
After CollegeAmerica refused to pay her millions of dollars in extortion to “make this go away,” DeBlasio-Webster was outraged and filed an absurd lawsuit against the school, against me, and against CollegeAmerica’s CEO.
U.S. Attorney General, Robert H. Jackson, stated:
If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted…. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man…. [The prosecutor] selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense. That is where the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies.
Shame on DeBlasio-Webster for exploiting “the most dangerous power of the prosecutor”: she picked people she wanted to get.
First, DeBlasio-Webster attempted to close CollegeAmerica by demanding 17 crippling injunctions. Judge Mullins essentially kicked her out of his courtroom, stating from the bench during the proceedings that she appeared to be biased against private colleges.
Next, even after this harsh rebuke, DeBlasio-Webster doubled down with a massive lawsuit, claiming $3 million in penalties and over $230 million dollars in “restitution.” This time, she had a new sympathetic judge in Ross Buchanan, who, in a decision that was unconscionably delayed for almost three years after the trial ended, simply copied virtually everything DeBlasio-Webster had asked for in her “draft” decision—typos and all.
On an expedited appeal, CollegeAmerica won hands down and, in an almost unprecedented action, the Appeals Court kicked Judge Ross Buchanan off the case and ordered a new trial. That was a stunning blow for DeBlasio-Webster. She had to pay us back $3 million. But she could not accept defeat or permit CollegeAmerica to win, much less get a new judge and a completely new trial. So, she went to the Colorado Supreme Court and asked them to reject the Appeals Court decision in order to get a limited new trial on just one aspect of the case—essentially rigging a new trial.
Since she appealed to the Supreme Court, CollegeAmerica then asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether CollegeAmerica should have been permitted a jury trial. Earlier, Judge Buchanan blocked CollegeAmerica from getting a jury trial, which would have resulted in a different outcome for CollegeAmerica.
The jury trial argument caused the Attorney General’s office grave concern. The last thing it wants is to permit defendants to have a jury trial when it could have a judge sympathetic to the Attorney General’s office rule in its favor.
What evidence do we have that this constitutes persecution rather than legitimate prosecution? Let me quote from our esteemed counsel, Sean Connelly. In a March 2023 hearing in front of the Colorado Supreme Court, he stated:
There was zero evidence of any consumer actually deceived by [CollegeAmerica’s advertising] despite having two years of pre-trial investigations… not a single student said “I was deceived [about statistics regarding employment].”
We put on testimony from former FTC Division Chief, Howard Beales, leading expert nationally. He said that this case was a “colossal waste of resources” because they did not put on any consumer [who was] actually misled… or proved that a reasonable consumer likely would have been misled.
At the beginning, we asked DeBlasio-Webster at least six times for any complaints she had. She never even responded.
DeBlasio-Webster brought this case without a single complaint from any student.
If, out of 10,000 students, there had been 10 or 20 complaints filed with the Attorney General—even if there had been just five—we would have acted to remedy the matter. But she had zero.
DeBlasio-Webster could have said, “We have surveyed your students and shown them the advertising you have been running, and 25% (or 30%, etc.) said they would be misled by it. Accordingly, you need to withdraw those advertisements.” In such a case, we would have instantly withdrawn the advertisements in question.
But that was not her game. She wanted to destroy private career colleges… and that’s just what she did. The colleges are now destroyed. They’re closed and out of business. Students are on the street and staff, who loved their colleges, were thrown out of work.
DeBlasio-Webster trumped up this case, costing millions of dollars for the Attorney General’s office and many millions of dollars for CollegeAmerica. Unfortunately, her conduct is not considered a crime—legally. But in every moral sense, her wicked abuse of the Attorney General’s power is egregiously criminal.
Please pass this along to other CollegeAmerica and CEHE employees and others in the career college sector.
Carl B. Barney
April 20, 2023