MSU’s Auston Robertson faces sex charge, kicked off team

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing – Michigan State football player Auston Robertson is facing a charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and has been dismissed from the team after police say he forced a woman to have sex with him in her apartment.

According to transcripts obtained from 55th District Court, police say Robertson accompanied the woman back to her apartment after attending a party in East Lansing and forcibly had sex with her, despite the fact she was “telling him to stop and telling him no.”

The account was detailed by Meridian Township Police detective Rebecca Payne in court documents.

The woman's statement to police says she and Robertson were acquaintances and ran into each other at a party in East Lansing. The woman, who said she had been drinking, later accompanied Robertson and a friend to a local pizza restaurant before Robertson called his girlfriend to give them a ride.

They then went to the woman's apartment, where Robertson said he would walk her to her apartment “to make sure she gets there safely,” according to the statement. It was at that point that Robertson entered the apartment and the alleged assault occurred. The complaint says Robertson stopped abruptly and “advised the victim she can’t tell anybody about this incident.”

The woman made the complaint to the Meridian Township Police on April 9 after telling her boyfriend and another friend, both of whom were interviewed by police and corroborated the story. Police did reach Robertson on April 13 after he had returned to his home state of Indiana. He did not give a statement and requested an attorney.

Third-degree criminal sexual conduct is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio issued a statement Friday afternoon stating Robertson, who played seven games as a freshman in 2016, was no longer a part of the program.

“The criminal sexual conduct charges announced today against Auston Robertson are of the most serious nature,” the statement read. “Sexual assault has no place in our community. While there is an ongoing criminal process, we’re extremely disappointed that Auston put himself in this position. He is no longer a member of our football program.”

Robertson, 19, was suspended from the team immediately after the incident was reported to team.

Robertson, a defensive end who played extensively in the spring game on April 1, was a four-star recruit from Ft. Wayne, Ind., when he joined the 2016 freshman class last season. However, he had legal issues in Indiana that delayed his signing.

In January 2016, Robertson faced a misdemeanor battery charge after an incident at his school and entered a diversionary program. It wasn’t until March 30 that Robertson signed with Michigan State after Dantonio said the situation had been “evaluated over the last three months while utilizing all resources available to us.”

According to Allen County Court records, Robertson completed the diversionary program and the case was dismissed on March 22 of this year.

“Given all the information available to us,” Dantonio said at the time of Robertson’s signing, “we believe Auston should be provided with an opportunity to begin his education and playing career at Michigan State.”

In September 2015, Allen County Court records also show Robertson was charged with resisting law enforcement and criminal mischief (damages or defaces property of another without consent). However, those charges were dismissed.

In the statement released Friday, Dantonio addressed the measures his program took when they decided to sign Robertson.

“Due to the charges he was facing during his recruitment, we took precaution in allowing Auston to be a part of our football program, including a thorough vetting, which we acknowledged publicly at his signing,” Dantonio said. “This was a multiple-step process that continued through his final admission in the summer.

“Following his arrival on campus, he underwent an extensive educational process with specific prerequisites put in place for his participation as a student-athlete. This included daily supervised sessions within the football program and regular meetings with university staff addressing appropriate behavior and developmental growth. He also successfully completed his one-year diversionary program as directed by the court, which included a 22-week course focused on behavior changes that began in Indiana and was transferred to the state of Michigan (Prevention and Training Services). Despite these measures, Auston broke our trust and expectations by putting himself in a compromising situation.”

Robertson, who has not been arraigned, had bond set at $75,000 after concerns about him being a flight risk were raised in Friday’s hearing because of the fact he lives out of state, as well as his prior brushes with the law.

Robertson’s history could come into play in this case if he is convicted and it is considered during sentencing, Wayne State law professor Peter Henning said.

“It could certainly affect the sentencing,” said Henning, a former federal prosecutor. “The judge takes into account the entire history of the defendant. So why it’s not clear whether it could be used as evidence in trial, if he were convicted the judge could take it into consideration in assigning the appropriate sentence.”

Henning also said while often a defendant, if convicted, doesn’t get the full 15 years, it would almost certainly result in jail time.

“Rarely is a defendant sentenced to the statutory maximum, at least not on a first felony offense,” Henning said. “That is unlikely, but a conviction here would result in jail time in most cases.”

The incident is separate from another on campus involving three football players who are at the center of a sexual assault investigation that has also resulted in the suspension of staffer Curtis Blackwell.

That incident occurred in January and the three players, who remain unidentified, have been suspended while the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office continues to review the case and determine if it will bring charges. There is also an ongoing Title IX investigation underway for that incident, as well as an independent review of the football staff’s handling of the incident.