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Ingham, Isabella county prosecutors won't charge MSU coaches

By Matt Charboneau and Tony Paul, The Detroit News
Alyssa McBride

Prosecutors in Ingham and Isabella counties have declined to bring charges against two Michigan State softball coaches after reviewing a State Police investigation following allegations by a player she was thrown at intentionally during batting practice.

Former player Alyssa McBride said she believed she was hit intentionally on two occasions — before a game at Central Michigan on April 29 and before a game at Michigan State on May 3 — after former team manager Ben Hayden told investigators he overheard a conversation between coach Jacquie Joseph and assistant Jessica Bograkos, during which they discussed hitting a player.

The Michigan State Police and the Michigan State University Police conducted the investigation and turned the information over to prosecutors in Ingham and Isabella counties, where each alleged incident took place.

The Ingham County Prosecutor said in an email it doesn't typically make announcements when charges are not brought, but did so because of the public nature of this case.

"The Ingham County Prosecutor's Office has reviewed a state police investigation of two individuals, each of whom are affiliated with the MSU Softball program," the statement read. "After this review, the Prosecutor has decided not to press charges in this matter. As such, this matter is considered closed."

Isabella County Prosecutor Risa Hunt-Scully provided an email statement concerning her office's investigation, saying there wasn't "sufficient evidence to sustain the burden of proof."

"On April 30, 2015, the Michigan State Police began an investigation after taking a complaint by a Michigan State softball player who reported being intentionally hit by a pitch thrown by a MSU assistant coach during batting practice at Central Michigan University (in Isabella County)," the statement read.

"On May 15, 2015, the Michigan State University Police took a "similar complaint from the same player, who reported being intentionally hit for a second time by the same assistant coach during batting practice at Michigan State University (in Ingham County).

"The two police agencies thoroughly investigated each complaint. The two agencies conducted over 30 interviews, including those of MSU softball players, coaches, and coaching staff, executed several search warrants, and gathered other statistical and medical information.

"The Isabella County Prosecuting Attorney will not be issuing criminal charges the complaint reported to have occurred at Central Michigan University. The Isabella County Prosecuting Attorney has determined that there is not sufficient evidence to sustain the burden of proof necessary to support criminal charges."

The alleged incidents came in the final week of the season after McBride made disparaging comments about the program to a reporter following a home loss to Notre Dame on April 28. Those comments got back to Joseph, and McBride said she was asked about those statements by coaches before leaving April 29 for the Central Michigan game.

McBride, a 22-year-old from Mattawan who hit .371 to lead the Spartans last season, did not start against Central Michigan, nor did she start home games against Maryland on May 1 and May 2. Before the May 3 game against Maryland, the last of her career, McBride was allegedly hit again.

"I am disappointed," McBride said in a text message to The News about the prosecutors decisions. "But on the advice of my counsel, I have no further comment."

Joseph, who completed her 22nd season at Michigan State, said the allegations were "categorically untrue," and Monday said she was grateful for the support she has received since the investigation began.

"I deeply appreciate the hard work of the prosecutors of Ingham and Isabella Counties in sorting out the details of this case in a timely manner," Joseph said in a statement. "I'm especially thankful that the cloud over my reputation has been lifted, so that I can again focus all my energies on the development of the student-athletes who share my passion for MSU and the great sport of softball. Finally, I would again like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the coaches, current and former students, and MSU staff members who supported me throughout this episode."

Peter Henning, a professor of criminal law at Wayne State, said the decision by prosecutors wasn't a surprise and that prosecutors are likely to take a case if they're more than 75 percent confident of conviction. "This was never going to be an easy case," he said.

Michigan State is conducting an internal investigation led by Gerald Gleeson II of Miller Canfield. University spokesman Jason Cody said that investigation is ongoing.

"The criminal investigation is independent of the MSU internal investigation, which should conclude in the next couple of weeks," he said. "Any decision about the coaches and their role within the program will be made once the internal review is complete."