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Suit alleges 5th UM employee knew of doctor's abuse

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A University of Michigan Athletic Department trainer is accused of laughing and saying "get use to that" after an athlete was allegedly sexually abused by the late Dr. Robert Anderson, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.  

The lawsuit makes UM Assistant Athletic Director Paul W. Schmidt the fifth UM representative who allegedly knew about Anderson's behavior. Anderson, a former University Health Service director and UM Athletic Department team physician who died in 2008, has been accused of sexually abusing men during medical treatments.

Paul W. Schmidt

Schmidt is also the first current UM employee who allegedly knew of accusations against Anderson.

The lawsuit was filed by a former UM football player in U.S. District Court in Detroit. The former athlete claims in the suit that he was sexually abused during the 1980s by Anderson, who worked for the university from 1968-2003.

The former football player said he was a freshman who got a required physical from Anderson. During the appointment, the man alleges, the doctor groped his penis and testicles "for an inordinately long period of time." Afterward, he ran into Schmidt, then a football trainer, according to the lawsuit.

"{Schmidt) laughed and told Plaintiff, 'get used to that' — which Plaintiff understood as referring to Dr. Anderson’s putative medical treatment," according to the lawsuit.

Former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who is representing the former football player, said there was a group of trainers present, and they all laughed too.

"It was so apparent from the situation (that) Schmidt knew what had happened," said Cox, who has filed 26 other lawsuits against UM and the Board of Regents with Southfield-based Shea Law Firm. 

In an email, Schmidt said he was unaware of allegations against Anderson.

"As I shared with the police and the investigators, I had no knowledge of alleged assaults and have no recollection of the event described," he said.

UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the university will carefully review the complaint.

"We also will share this with the independent investigators in this matter to examine all the facts," he said.    

Schmidt joins a growing list of UM representatives who were reportedly alerted about Anderson, who is accused by scores of men of behavior ranging from masturbation to fondling to unnecessary anal examinations, according to men who have spoken publicly or filed lawsuits.

Others who allegedly were told of allegations against Anderson include former UM Athletic Director Don Canham, who is deceased; former UM head wrestling coach Bill Johannesen, who has denied knowing of any misconduct by Anderson; former head UM track head coach Jack Harvey and former UM assistant track coach Ron Warhurst.

"During Plaintiff’s four years with the football program it was common knowledge that 'Dr. A' would commit odd acts in the guise of treatment of injuries or illnesses," according to the lawsuit.

The former football player saw Anderson 12 times during his four years on the football team for sports-related injuries that involved his wrist, shoulder, neck and other body parts, in addition to ailments such as a common cold, according to the lawsuit.

"On every one of these 12 visits Dr. Anderson groped, fondled or cupped, Plaintiff’s penis and testicles for an excessively long time," the lawsuit said. "During these incidents of inappropriate genital fondling, Dr. Anderson would also put his face within inches of Plaintiff’s penis and testicles. During one of the visits Dr. Anderson also digitally penetrated Plaintiff’s anus."

The former football players did not question Anderson because he was attending UM on an athletic scholarship, could not afford to go to the university without it, and was afraid to question an authority figure in the Athletic Department.

"The assault could have been prevented if UM had acted on and/or investigated complaints against Anderson that UM had notice of as early as 1968," the lawsuit said. "The assault on Plaintiff could have been prevented if UM had warned Plaintiff or properly supervised Anderson or trained Athletic Department supervisors such as Plaintiff’s coaches and trainers," the lawsuit continued. "But UM failed to do any of these things that would have prevented Plaintiff’s sexual abuse."

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com