Dr. Robert Anderson accuser, UM attorney spar over medical history in unsealed deposition
A lawyer for the University of Michigan who deposed one of the hundreds of men who have accused the late doctor Robert Anderson of sexual abuse spent much of the legal questioning challenging the credibility of the man's statements about his medical history.
Former University of Michigan football player Chuck Christian has claimed Anderson gave him painful and unnecessary prostate exams on four occasions during his four-year football career and trauma from those appointments four decades ago led him to avoid allowing doctors to give him a prostate exam until 2016. He believes his reluctance to get rectal exams prevented his terminal prostate cancer from being discovered earlier, an issue that has been a focal point of his public statements.
Jack Williams, a lawyer for the Jones Day law firm representing UM, quizzed Christian about medical records the university obtained showing his history of medical visits after he graduated from UM in 1981 to recent years. Those records included primary care doctor visits beginning as early as 2002 and a colonoscopy in 2010 when Christian was 51.
"Whatever Dr. Anderson did, that did not stop you from going to see doctors after 1981, did it?" Williams asked at one point.
"How can you tell me what it did or didn't stop? You're not in this body," Christian responded during the heated exchange. "You're not living in this body. So don't start playing this game with me. You're being very disrespectful."
While three depositions have been taken, Christian's is the first to emerge publicly, giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse of UM's strategies as the legal process between Anderson's accusers and the university continues into its second year. The school was first sued in March 2020 and more than 100 lawsuits were paused in September of that year as the mediation process began with more than 850 Anderson accusers.
Reached by phone this week, Christian described the deposition, which was taken in September of last year, as a "non-stop attack."
"I felt like a criminal," said Christian, a Boston-area resident who is protesting outside of UM President Mark Schlissel's house on campus with another football player, Jon Vaughn.
"After the deposition, I felt like I'd been raped again. I couldn't believe that Michigan could be so cruel. They had zero sympathy for what I'd been through."
Williams did not respond to a message left seeking comment.
UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald in a statement noted that Christian’s attorney requested his deposition be taken.
"As part of that process, the university sought medical records to allow for a thorough accounting of the impact of the trauma experienced by Anderson survivors," Fitzgerald said. "The university was pleased to learn from Mr. Christian himself that he regularly received medical care throughout the years.
"U-M remains committed to work through the ongoing, confidential mediation process that is supervised by the federal court. At the same time, we continue to implement new policies, processes and procedures in order to make our campus safer for every member of the university community."
Christian's lawyer, Dennis Mulvihill, said the deposition shows the contrast in how UM is treating accusers out of the public eye compared with more sympathetic public statements.
UM has said it believes that Anderson sexually assaulted former students during medical care and that it is seeking to reach a fair settlement with those hurt by the doctor who led the University Health Service for many years and was the team doctor for the UM Athletic Department. Anderson, who began his career at UM in 1966, retired in 2003 and died in 2008.
"The disconnect arises when contrasting how Michigan treated Mr. Christian in his deposition — aggressively and condescendingly, with how Michigan wants to be seen treating victims publicly — consistently praising the victims for their courage to share their stories openly," Mulvihill said. "These are the two faces of the university relative to the way it permitted Dr. Anderson to rape so many students and the consequences resulting from that unconscionable and tragic decision."
Christian's deposition was taken virtually but it had been under seal. Both UM and Mulvihill agreed to unseal it.
Fitzgerald declined to discuss why UM agreed to allow it to be unsealed, saying the school "respects the confidentiality of the court-supervised mediation."
Mulvihill noted “the parties had a disagreement as to whether the deposition should be made public, and it took a long time for an accord to be reached. The disagreement was whether or not this deposition was subject to mediation confidentiality or not, and it took a while to sort through those issues."
The late Thomas Easthope was deposed before his death in March. Easthope was the former UM associate vice president for student services who claimed he fired Anderson in 1979 when he learned of complaints that Anderson had sexually assaulted members of the UM community, and that his boss overturned his decision. That boss, former Vice President for Student Services Henry Johnson, was also deposed.
But Christian, a UM tight end from 1977-81, is the only accuser to have given a deposition. He has said doctors gave him three years to live in 2016.
Under questioning by Mulvihill, Christian said he did not see doctors often during the 1980s and 1990s after leaving Michigan and moving to the Boston area.
"I just avoided the doctor because I associated doctors with pain and trauma," Christian said during the deposition. "I just didn't want to go to a doctor, so I just avoided them."
He saw a urologist in 2005 after his wife LaDonna, a nurse, insisted he go when he found blood in his urine.
"Things went fine until he went into the corner and grabbed a glove and snapped it," Christian said about the appointment. "When I heard that glove snap, my brain and everything just went zip right back into Dr. Anderson's office. It was like being transported.
"My wife kept telling me, 'Chuck, you need to get it done,'" Christian said. "I said, 'No, nobody is going to do that to me again.'"
Christian, whose father died of prostate cancer at age 62, said he got up and left. His doctor told him he was 45, so they could monitor his symptoms. He said his symptoms subsided.
Christian said he saw a doctor for his blood pressure in 2012 because LaDonna told him he could have a stroke if he didn't treat it. He eventually got a prostate cancer exam in 2016 after LaDonna kept insisting because he was urinating 8 to 10 times during the night.
Jones Day's Williams asked Christian about the first physical exam with Anderson as an 18-year-old freshman when the doctor performed the painful rectal exam and stroked his penis. Christian told a teammate about the incident and learned the teammate also underwent a rectal exam.
"You both were shocked by what had happened with you with Dr. Anderson giving you rectal examinations, right?" Williams asked, and Christian said yes.
Williams asked if Anderson also stroked his teammate's penis, but Christian said he didn't know.
"So you and (redacted) just talked about the rectal examination, not the stroking of the penis?" Williams said.
"Right, because that was extremely painful for me," Christian said.
Williams also asked how Christian came to the conclusion he had been sexually assaulted by Anderson, something he had not acknowledged prior to last year until a conversation with a teammate.
Christian said he felt violated when Anderson inserted his finger in him but thought the doctor was doing it for medical reasons. He said trusted the doctor because he believed UM was the best.
"So after Dr. Anderson, those four examinations that you had with him, you didn't think that anything was wrong for the next 40 years until your teammate ... called you in February of 2020; is that right?
"Correct," Christian responded.
Williams reviewed numerous records and doctors appointments Christian had, including a colonoscopy he underwent in 2010 when he was 51.
"When you had a colonoscopy, didn't you have a rectal exam before that?" Williams asked Christian during the deposition.
"Rectal exam? No," Christian responded. "When I had my colonoscopy, they put me to sleep. I woke up, it was over."