Fired Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell seeking millions in damages

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Curtis Blackwell

The former Michigan State football staff member who is suing current and former university officials over unfair termination and two MSU Police officers over unlawful arrest is seeking as much as $5,580,000 in damages, according to federal-court filings.

Curtis Blackwell, who was on Michigan State's staff from 2013 until his contract wasn't renewed in 2017, is seeking between $4,650,000 and $5,580,000 just from the two arresting police officers. He considers that amount to lost wages for 31 years, at a hypothetical annual salary of between $150,000 and $180,000.

Blackwell hadn't publicly detailed the financial amount he was seeking, other than his initial lawsuit, which specified more than $75,000 in economic damages.

It's not yet clear how much Blackwell is seeking in his unfair termination lawsuit.

The amount was unveiled in a brief filed by the lawyers for MSU Police officers Chad Davis and Sam Miller, who arrested Blackwell in February 2017 after questioning him in regard to three Michigan State football players who were being investigated for having inappropriate sexual conduct with a female during a January 2017 party.

Blackwell was handcuffed and arrested on Michigan State's campus and driven to the MSU Police station, where he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer further questions.

Mark Dantonio

Blackwell, 41, was never charged, though head football coach Mark Dantonio decided not to renew his contract in May 2017. A short time later, a report by Jones Day, a law firm hired by Michigan State to investigate how school officials responded to the sexual-assault claims, was released and despite not talking to Blackwell, Jones Day determined he violated university policy by trying to investigate the sexual-assault claims himself.

After a request from lawyers for Davis and Miller, Blackwell released the financial amount he was seeking Aug. 8, before his Aug. 12 deposition.

During his deposition, which lasted 6.5 hours, Blackwell made reference to the financial terms he was seeking, according to the officers' lawyers, but the portions of the deposition made public didn't include any such figures. Dozens of pages of the deposition transcript were withheld from the public.

Blackwell also mentioned several individuals relevant to the case during his deposition, but lawyers for Miller and Davis say he has repeatedly declined to provide contact information for the individuals, whom the lawyers want to question.

Lawyers for Miller and Davis issued multiple third-party subpoenas, for individuals as well as for Blackwell's banking information and travel records. Blackwell's lawyers responded by issuing subpeonas to quash the request by the defendants' lawyers. One of the parties, American Airlines, agreed to decline the defendants' lawyers requests, pending a court order.

Legal experts are surprised Michigan State and Blackwell haven't settled, if for no other reason than the university avoiding embarrassing revelations — like ones that came out in Blackwell's deposition, in which he accused Dantonio of recruiting troubled defensive lineman Auston Robertson, over the objections of several assistant coaches. Robertson played briefly as a freshman, before he was kicked off the team following allegations of sexual assault. He now is serving up to 10 years in prison.

Blackwell said he's out for more than just money, but also his reputation. The co-founder of the Sound Mind Sound Body football camps, Blackwell said he is struggling to land another college football job. 

Blackwell, under his last contract, was making $129,000 a year at Michigan State. He received a significant raise after Michigan attempted to hire him away.

Miller and Davis were scheduled to be deposed earlier this week.

Dantonio hasn't yet been deposed, and is seeking a court order to prevent lawyers from questioning him about Robertson or Nassar, saying that has nothing to do with the Blackwell case. Dantonio said he let Blackwell go over "philosophical" differences, while Blackwell said he was made the scapegoat by an under-pressure university eager to show the community it was taking any allegations seriously in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal.

Former MSU athletic director Mark Hollis and former university president Lou Anna Simon also have yet to be deposed. Blackwell's lawyers have preferred to depose Dantonio first.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984