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MSU Athletes Still Not Held Accountable for Sexual Assault Crimes After Years of Scrutiny and Cover-Up
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A survivor of sexual assault retained Grewal Law PLLC to investigate her case involving Michigan State University basketball player Brock Washington. The Michigan Attorney General promised to review her case to see whether or not it should be reopened, after the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office declined to press charges.

This is not the first time Washington finds himself at the center of a criminal sexual assault investigation. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault and battery charge in 2018, although the case was first classified as criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, a high-court misdemeanor, carrying a two-year prison sentence.

In 2017, during the investigation of the first case involving Washington, Tom Izzo and two assistant basketball coach may have interfered with a witness involved in the case while the matter was pending. The witness had not yet given his statement to the police when approached by Izzo and company. Izzo would later go on to criticize the media’s handling of the case and lamented, “[t]he sad thing is, I think we should, probably as a Michigan State community, apologize to this young man and his family who has been named without, at least in that report, any evidence of any wrongdoing.” Washington pled guilty to assault and battery charges months later.

Still, Washington continued to dress and attend all games during the 2017-2018 season, and it was not until the 2020 sexual assault investigation did Izzo suspend Washington, a redshirt sophomore, from the team.

Such tactics by Izzo and the athletic department in general at MSU are far from unusual. As extensively outlined in the 2018 Outside The Lines report, Izzo and others have made it a habit to intervene in criminal sexual assault investigations to protect their own. Cases involving athletes are often handled “in-house,” or within the athletic department, rather than following Title IX processes, allowing coaches to decide what repercussions, if any, the athletes face in some cases.

There is a long list of MSU basketball players, and football players, whose cases were given preferential treatment, prioritizing membership with the team over campus and victim and safety. The OTL report discusses cases involving basketball players Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, and Travis Walton.

MSU has fought media requests in court time after time in their efforts to conceal criminal records involving athletes from the public. These efforts have mostly failed, and MSU was ordered to pay ESPN’s attorney fees in one case. In another, a judge dismissed MSU’s lawsuit, wherein the university proactively (and unprecedentedly) sued the requestor of records in order to withhold public documents.

And let’s not forget that Coach Izzo proudly sat behind accused rapist Mateen Cleaves just before the jury was asked to deliberate the case in 2019. Although Cleaves was ultimately acquitted after the case dragged on for over 5 years, Izzo’s presence in the courtroom sent a clear message to survivors.

Grewal Law is carefully reviewing our client’s case. MSU continues to issue statements promising to do better when handling sexual assault on campus. We have yet to see a shift in the culture and protocol at MSU and beyond and so our legal team will continue to fight for transparency, accountability and justice for survivors.

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