MSU police: Blackwell interfered with investigation

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Former Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell interfered with a police investigation and was led out of the football building in handcuffs, according to a report conducted by the Michigan State University Police.

On Feb. 8, a day before the university announced that three football players and a staff member had been suspended amidst a sexual assault investigation of an incident that occurred on campus on Jan. 16, Blackwell was interviewed at the Duffy Daugherty Football Building by MSU Police detectives, who determined Blackwell “took it upon himself to investigate this incident.”

The police report, obtained by The News through an open records request, details interviews with Blackwell following the incident that resulted in criminal sexual conduct charges and dismissal from the football team of Josh King, 19, Donnie Corley, 19, and Demetric Vance, 20.

While the names of everyone but Blackwell have been redacted from the report, it states Blackwell told investigators he had spoken with two players later identified as suspects well before Michigan State’s Title IX office had been made aware of the incident. Blackwell also said he had exchanged text messages with the father of one of the players, adding he has been mentoring two of the players since high school and was close with their families.

The report stated Blackwell did not tell police or others at the university about his discussions with the players of their families until he was interviewed by police on Feb. 8.

Blackwell told detectives he was simply trying to understand the situation.

“I wasn’t doing an investigation or anything,” Blackwell told the detectives. “I was just trying to find out exactly what happened.”

The reports said “Blackwell added he was trying to find out if it was consensual.”

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When detectives determined Blackwell had not followed procedure, they stopped the interview and took Blackwell into custody. An MSU patrol officer was called and placed Blackwell in handcuffs and transported him to the MSU Police Department.

Once there, Blackwell invoked his Miranda rights and declined to speak with officers. Two of his cell phones were seized at that time.

Last week, the Ingham County Prosecutor announced charges against the three players, who were then dismissed from the team. King, of Darien, Ill., is being charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and a count of capturing an image of an unclothed person. Corley and Vance, both from Detroit, have been charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct. All three were arraigned last week.

MSU Police had sought a fourth warrant for obstruction of an investigation against Blackwell, but the prosecutor did not authorize those charges.

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The findings from the MSU Police seem to back up those in the Jones Day report, released last week. That report, requested by Michigan State, was to determine whether the football staff followed university policy in its handling of the incident. While Blackwell declined to be interviewed for that report, it concluded there was enough evidence to show Blackwell violated university policy.

Blackwell, who was hired in 2013 as the director of college advancement and performance. He led Michigan State’s recruiting efforts, and until his suspension on Feb. 9, there were no negative reviews in his personnel file, which was obtained by The News.

However, last month coach Mark Dantonio opted not to renew Blackwell’s contract, which was set to expire on May 31 after twice being extend by one month, a common practice when an employee is under suspension.

Dantonio said at the time the decision was “basically a philosophical change. We evaluated everything. There was a change, we needed to be able to move forward and this decision was made.”

On Tuesday, Dantonio announced changes in the coaching staff, promoting offensive line coach Mark Staten to assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator.

According to the MSU Police report, some staffers had concerns about Blackwell. MSU Police interviewed the entire Michigan State coaching staff as potential witnesses to the investigation and they were asked to provide any additional information they had related to the incident.

One staffer, whose name was redacted, said “I’m not a big Curtis guy,” and indicated he believed Blackwell’s association with the “Sound Mind, Sound Body” camps created a conflict of interest. That staffer discussed the close relationship Blackwell had with players from Detroit and said in the report that “Curtis is the one football staff member who he would question their integrity,” while adding, “Curtis would withhold information related to the Detroit kids.”

Another staffer whose name is also redacted, mentioned Blackwell’s close relationship with Detroit players and their families and stated Blackwell “knows a lot of people in Detroit” through his work with “Sound Mind, Sound Body.”