MSU police ask for another warrant in sex assault probe

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
On Feb. 9, the university announced that MSU Police were investigating a sexual assault that involved three student-athletes.

East Lansing — Ingham County's prosecutor has asked Michigan State University police for more evidence before it considers issuing warrants in an alleged on-campus sexual assault involving three student-athletes.

A fourth warrant is being sought for a non-sexual crime, a spokesman with the prosecutor's office confirmed.

Prosecutor Carol Siemon said in a statement on Thursday afternoon that her office has asked the MSU Police department to provide more evidence in the case.

“Earlier today, our office received warrant requests from the MSU Police Department in a reported case of sexual assault, that occurred on the campus this past January,” Siemon’s statement said. “Detectives from the Michigan State University Police Department have conducted a thorough and professional investigation of this incident.

“I have asked the MSU Police Department to continue that investigation and submit to our office additional information and evidence. Upon the review of those materials, I will determine a charging decision in this matter.”

On Feb. 9. Michigan State announced that MSU Police were investigating a sexual assault that involved three student-athletes for an alleged incident that occurred in late January. The university also began a Title IX investigation and said an outside law firm would conduct and independent review of the football staff’s handling of the incident.

All three players, who still have not been identified, were suspended and removed from campus housing. One staff member, Curtis Blackwell, was also suspended with pay. Blackwell is the director of college advancement and performance and was hired in 2013.

What the prosecutor’s office is looking for and a timetable on how much longer the investigation will take varies, according to Wayne State law professor Peter Henning.

“It at least indicates that this is not an easy case,” said Henning, a former federal prosecutor. “We don’t know what kind of evidence they’re asking for, whether there’s any additional physical evidence, because an issue in these types of cases is going to be consent. So if there’s physical evidence that can show that there was some use of force, then that makes it easier to prove a sexual assault charge.

“I would expect they’re going to ask them for that and perhaps maybe additional interviews. It at least indicates … this is a case that is going to require careful evaluation.”

The extra evidence request is not out of the norm and Henning said the fact sexual assault cases can be tricky is the main reason why. That could lead to a delay before the prosecutor decides whether or not to bring charges.

“The victim is going to have to testify and prosecutors need to evaluate that person,” Henning said. “This is what makes these cases so difficult. A good prosecutor has to be skeptical, and that’s unfortunately not very supportive of someone who (might have) endured a horrific experience.

“These are among the most difficult cases in criminal law and that could slow the process down. It could take another week to 10 days, depending.”

Michigan State is currently in the midst of two high-profile sexual assault cases as Dr. Larry Nassar, a former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor, is facing sexual abuse charges and is currently in jail for federal and state charges that include possession of child pornography, along with assault of a girl at his home and destruction of evidence.

Nassar is under investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting dozens of young women over a 22-year period, with at least 37 women who have filed legal complaints against him. Three alleged victims have come forward to say former MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was aware of the abuse. Klages, 62, announced her retirement on Tuesday after 27 years as the gymnastics coach at Michigan State.

Twitter @mattcharboneau