Key witness in UM lawsuit linked to abusive doctor dies

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A key witness is dead in the lawsuit against the University of Michigan involving claims of sexual misconduct against the late Dr. Robert Anderson.

Thomas Easthope, the former UM associate vice president for student services from 1970-88, died Feb 26. He was 87.

The cause of his death was unclear, but his obituary said that he died "surrounded by his family and with the same spirit of adventure, sense of humor and kindness he had always shown throughout his life."

Easthope got connected a year ago to Anderson, the former head of University Health Services and team physician for the UM Athletic Department for 37 years, when some of the earliest sexual allegations became public against the doctor. There are now at least 850 allegations.

Thomas Easthope

The doctor died in 2008, but sexual misconduct allegations didn't emerge publicly until last year after The Detroit News published the story of Robert Julian Stone, the first man to publicly accuse Anderson of sexual assault.

Days later, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's office released an investigation by the UM police department showing that Easthope learned in 1979 that Anderson was acting inappropriately with male patients in exam rooms. Though Easthope said he tried to fire Anderson, the doctor served the  university for another 24 years.

Former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and attorney David J. Shea, who filed the first lawsuit against UM, filed an emergency motion in April to depose Easthope for trial preservation in the case involving John Doe MC-1.

Detroit U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts granted the motion and a lawyer deposed Easthope on July 27 and Aug. 4.

Easthope testified that his boss, Vice President for Student Services Henry Johnson, overturned the decision to terminate Anderson and influential former Athletic Director Don Canham also played a role in keeping Anderson at UM. The decisions enabled the physician to continue his abuse of students.

A second UM police report that emerged in December corroborates a statement Easthope made during his deposition that Johnson overrode his decision to fire Anderson.

Lawyers deposed Johnson in February, but his testimony is still confidential. Canham is deceased.

"We offer our condolences to the family of Thomas Easthope," UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Monday.