/Judge: Its plausible Michigan State buried sex assault claims against athletes

Judge: Its plausible Michigan State buried sex assault claims against athletes

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that it’s “plausible” Michigan State University buried sexual assault claims brought against athletes and let its athletic department deal with those issues outside the normal university process.

“The Court finds that the allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint render plausible her claim that MSU maintained official policies that left her and other female students vulnerable to sexual assault by male athletes,” the ruling by Judge Paul Maloney said. 

“Plaintiff has sufficiently pleaded that MSU allowed reports of sexual assault to be handled ‘off-line’ by the Athletic Department and outside the normal channels of Title IX investigations. Similarly, the attempts to cover up or otherwise obfuscate the University’s handling of sexual assault reports made against male athletes, the attempts to conceal the names of prominent male athletes when mentioned in police reports, and the attempts to discourage female victims from reporting their own assaults all tend to show that sexual assaults by male athletes were handled in ways that would minimize scrutiny and potential punishment for such acts.”

In issuing the ruling, Maloney denied a move by MSU to reject a lawsuit by Bailey Kowalski, who claimed that multiple basketball players — whom she has not named — sexually assaulted her.

More: MSU Title IX investigators clear basketball players of assault

More: Sex assault allegations at Michigan State make it ‘so hard to be a Spartan’

More: MSU student who accused 3 basketball players of rape fights for ‘silent survivors’

In her lawsuit, Kowalski said she was at Harper’s Bar in the early morning hours of April 12, 2015, when the Spartans’ basketball team arrived. She said a player offered to buy her a drink and asked whether she would like to meet other team members.

Kowalski said she was invited to a party at a player’s apartment. But she said there was no party when she got there, and she was forcefully thrown on a bed, held down and raped, according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit said that Kowalski felt disoriented even though she didn’t have much to drink, making her suspect she had been drugged. 

Kowalski didn’t report the alleged assault to police or campus officials. She said in her lawsuit that she visited the MSU Counseling Center about a week after the incident, and staff there discouraged her from making a report after she told them basketball players were involved. 

Kowalski was known only as “Jane Doe” — the name used in her lawsuit — until she held a news conference in April in East Lansing. Then a senior, Kowalski said she didn’t want to walk across the stage at graduation without speaking up about what happened to her. 

“If I didn’t (speak out), I would be neglecting other victims and leaving them behind,” Kowalski said. “Knowing I can be there for somebody right now, knowing there are women and men who exist as survivors, I look forward to being their support system if they do not have one.

“They do not have to be silenced, this isn’t a burden they have to carry on their own.”

In June, MSU investigators cleared the basketball players of all wrongdoing after Kowalski also filed a Title IX report with the school.

Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj.