Lawsuit: 2 UM officials knew about doctor's alleged abuse

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Another man has alleged he was sexually assaulted during medical examinations by the late University of Michigan Dr. Robert E. Anderson — and he told two UM officials but they laughed at him, according to a lawsuit filed Sunday.

The lawsuit adds more people to the list of UM representatives who were reportedly alerted about the alleged behaviors of Anderson, who worked for the university from 1968 to 2003 as the director of the University Health Service and team physician for the UM Athletic Department. He died in 2008.

Dr. Robert E. Anderson

It is the 13th lawsuit to be filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit against UM and the Board of Regents since last week by former university athletes who wrestled, ran track, played football and hockey. They are represented by former Attorney General Mike Cox and  Southfield lawyer David J. Shea. 

The plaintiff, filed as a John Doe, ran track for UM on an athletic scholarship during the 1970s and allegedly was sexually assaulted by Anderson at least 25 times, according to the lawsuit.

►Read: Everything we know about the sexual abuse investigations at University of Michigan

After one of the visits in 1976, the man allegedly approached track head coach, Jack Harvey, and assistant coach, Ron Warhurst, and told them that Anderson was groping his penis and testicles during medical examinations. Anderson allegedly digitally penetrated the man but was too embarrassed to tell his coaches about it, according to the lawsuit.

"After reporting Dr. Anderson this 'odd' or 'weird' conduct to Coach Harvey and Coach Warhurst, plaintiff further asked to go to another physician so he could get medical assistance for his injury(s)," the suit said. "Both Coach Harvey and Coach Warhurst laughed at plaintiff’s complaint and refused to send him to a different physician."

Harvey and Warhurst could not be reached for comment Sunday.

But Bill Johannesen, who was UM's wrestling coach from 1970-78 and also accused of being alerted about Anderson, said Sunday that he has talked about the accusations with Harvey, who is one of his best friends. Johannesen said he asked Harvey if any of his athletes ever told him that Anderson was doing anything inappropriate to athletes.

"Jack said he never did. Neither did I," Johannesen said. "And Dr. Anderson is not here to defend himself."

UM spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen did not directly respond to the lawsuit.

"We share the same goal of gathering all the facts, including understanding the full scope of the harm caused by Dr. Robert E. Anderson and the institutional failings of the university," Broekhuizen said on Sunday.

Cox called the coaches' laughing at the man "an abject abandonment of their role as a coach to protect them."

Last month, Tad DeLuca, a wrestler at UM, also came forward and said he wrote a nine-page letter in 1975 toJohannesen, who was the wrestling coach then, and Don Canham, then the athletic director, and told them about Anderson's alleged sexual assaults. DeLuca said he was kicked off the team and stripped of his scholarship.

Canham is deceased. Johannesen has said he had not been alerted to any improper behavior by Anderson, but he remembered wrestlers joking about Anderson requiring athletes to pull their pants down when they went to see him.

"It was a joke and everybody laughed about it," said Johannesen on Sunday, adding DeLuca never had a full scholarship and was kicked off the team for not showing up to practice.

The lawsuit filed Sunday also alleged the man who ran track for UM came forward a year later in 1976 to a UM coach and officials should have been on the lookout for Anderson's behavior, said Cox.

DeLuca wrote another letter in 2018 to Athletic Director Warde Manuel, launching a UM police investigation that emerged in February when Robert Julian Stone, a California man, told The Detroit News for a story that Anderson had abused him during an exam in June 1971. 

He came forward because he wrote to UM officials and learned there were other victims and feared they would never be known if someone didn't speak up.

UM hired Steptoe & Johnson to investigate the Anderson allegations but announced Saturday it was going to select another firm since it emerged that Steptoe & Johnson had defended two prominent men accused of sexual abuse, the late financier Jeffrey Epstein and director Roman Polanski.  

Staff Writer Oralandar Brand Williams contributed.