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UM knew of sex abuse reports against doctor 19 months before going public

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan learned about allegations of sexual misconduct by former sports Dr. Robert E. Anderson in 2018 — but 19 months passed before UM publicized a hotline, announced the hiring of an outside investigator and publicly asked for any other potential victims to come forward.

UM announced the moves Wednesday morning — 19 hours after The Detroit News began asking questions about allegations lodged in August by Robert Julian Stone, a UM alum who alleged the late doctor fondled him during a medical exam in 1971.

Robert Julian Stone accused Anderson of sexually assaulting him nearly 50 years ago.

"The reason I called (The News) worked," Stone said. "I just wasn't willing to sit here and be stonewalled by these people indefinitely."

In a press release issued Wednesday morning, university officials said UM police began an investigation in July 2018 after a former student athlete wrote to Athletic Director Warde Manuel about alleged abuse during medical exams in the early 1970s. 

More: Former University of Michigan team doctor investigated for multiple sex abuse complaints

UM said the outreach to possible victims it announced Wednesday was part of an independent review by lawyers at the firm of Steptoe & Johnson, which the university hired in January. The university also said the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office finished its review of the case Tuesday and decided against filing criminal charges.

When asked why UM waited to call for victims until The News asked about Anderson, university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald responded in an email.

"Thanks for asking this important question," Fitzgerald said. "The university took this action based on receipt of an initial review by the external law firm and the prosecutor's decision Tuesday."

Later, Fitzgerald said: "We made a decision to wait on any additional outreach until the prosecutor made a decision on criminal charges. We would never want to do anything that would interfere with a police investigation."

The UM police investigation, which Fitzgerald said was completed in April 2019, was sent to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's office for review.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Steven Hiller said UM sent the report between May and June. 

Two hours after The News asked about the case Wednesday, Hiller said the review had been concluded; in a later email, he said his office finished reviewing the allegations months ago.  

He added that no charges could be filed even if evidence existed because Anderson was deceased and no ancillary charges could be filed against others because the statute of limitations had expired.

"This office concluded our review of the report sometime last fall," Hiller said. "The review was initially completed some time before that, and then the matter was looked at again after UMPD submitted an additional report in the late summer or early fall."

The allegations against Anderson became public Wednesday when The News published a story detailing Stone's account of the alleged assault by the doctor and numerous emails he exchanged with UM officials.

Stone reported his allegations to the university in August, and followed up Jan. 3, asking for his report.

Jesse Johnson, UM police records and evidence manager, told Stone he wouldn't get the report because it was under review by prosecutors, adding that the report is "extremely large and documents many other victims, and any release will have to be heavily redacted."

"That report could not be released until the Prosecutor's Office has completed its review," Johnson told Stone in an email.

Stone told the News one of the reasons he came forward was that he learned there were other alleged victims and he feared that the university and the prosecutor could keep the case open indefinitely, and no one would ever know about the allegations against Anderson. 

"I want to reach out to all of the other men who were assaulted by this doctor and I want them to step forward, because we're stronger together," Stone said. "Only if they step forward in a public way can we guarantee the integrity of the case file."

On Wednesday, after Stone's story was published online, he said he got a call from UM police Detective Mark West.

Stone said West told him he did the right thing by contacting the media because it "forced the hand" of the prosecutor's office, and accusers needed an update.

"He said I was right in my assumptions that they were just sitting on it and not doing anything," Stone said. "They are now doing something. That can't undo what happened to me and the other men, so they have to have some sort of face-saving modus operandi in order to make themselves like they are doing something. That's what they have to do and it's what they should do."

West did not respond Wednesday to phone messages from The News.

Anyone who wants a copy of their report came make a request under the Freedom of Information Act with UM's FOIA office at foia-email@umich.edu.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com