MSU reviewed Auston Robertson's sex assault record, then admitted him anyway
As Auston Robertson awaited trial for rape in May 2018, prosecutors sought to introduce evidence of five previous incidents of his alleged sexual misconduct.
The judge allowed three, but it could have been more.
Robertson was a decorated member of Michigan State University’s 2016 recruiting class, nicknamed the "Dream Team." A four-star recruit on a five-star scale, he was big, fast and would fill a desperate immediate need for MSU — defensive linemen.
His recruitment has become a controversial focus of the ongoing lawsuit between former staff member Curtis Blackwell Jr. over his firing, allegedly for “philosophical differences.”
At the time of his signing, MSU coach Mark Dantonio touted the university's exhaustive review of Robertson’s record.
“Our decision ... has been evaluated over the last three months while utilizing all resources available to us to thoroughly review his situation,” Dantonio said when he announced Robertson's signing.
Just more than a year later, Robertson was not only off the team, but awaiting trial for the sexual assault of his teammate’s girlfriend.
In a court statement, that victim wrote in part, “I was not aware that this had happened before.”
Robertson's misconduct began by age 11 and continued through high school, according to records obtained by The Detroit News:
►On July 12, 2009, Robertson, 11, was in a park when he allegedly told friends he was going to rape someone. A female friend asked him who, and he responded, “You.” The girl ran home and told her mother, who, having heard concerns about Robertson, called the New Haven Police Department. Robertson admitted the incident.
►On Feb. 12, 2013, Robertson, 15, was with two female friends and asked them if they wanted to have sex. They attempted to walk away, but Robertson grabbed one, who pushed him away, then went home and told her mom, according to a report by the Fort Wayne Police Department.
►On April 17, 2013, Robertson, still 15, was at Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, where his ex-girlfriend purchased a soda. Robertson allegedly took it away then forced her to kiss him. She put her hand up to cover her mouth, pushed him away, and told him to stop. Robertson, according to a witness, said, “no,” tackled her and pulled down her pants, exposing her, according to the Allen County Police Department.
►In June 2013, Robertson invited a girl to his house, and while on the couch, he allegedly asked her to have sex. When she said “no,” Robertson grabbed her by the ankles, pulled her into the bathroom, grabbed her by the hair, pulled down her pants and made her sit on his lap, according to the Fort Wayne police. She got away by squeezing his genitalia.
►In October 2013, according to the same report, the girl from the June incident was at Robertson's house having sex with a different person when Robertson allegedly opened the door and said, “My turn.” Robertson bent her over the bathtub and had intercourse with her until someone began banging on the door. He then left, allegedly telling the girl she “better not tell nobody cuz I already have a charge on me.”
►In July 2015, at a volleyball conditioning practice, Robertson allegedly twice grabbed the buttocks of a female volleyball player, according to Fort Wayne police.
►On Oct. 6, 2015, the same girl was waiting for a trainer to wrap her hand when Robertson allegedly grabbed her buttocks again.
►On Oct. 22, 2015, the same player was in the high school office when Robertson, 18, allegedly rubbed and grabbed her genitalia. The girl pushed him away and started to leave when Robertson did it a second time.
The Fort Wayne Police Department investigated the incidents involving the volleyball player, which were reported only after a teacher overheard her telling her story in the bathroom. He was charged and entered a diversionary program in which the charges were dropped upon completion.
Despite his lengthy record of previous incidents, it’s not clear just what MSU officials knew.
Robertson was kicked off MSU’s team in April 2017 after sexually assaulting a teammate’s girlfriend while his own girlfriend waited for him in a car outside.
Even that didn’t end his football career. A judge allowed Robertson to attend Garden City Community College in Kansas while awaiting trial. Robertson allegedly committed multiple felonies while there, including aggravated robbery armed with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and distribution of marijuana.
Robertson pleaded guilty in connection with the Michigan assault, and in December 2018 was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison; he's serving his sentence at Newberry Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula and declined to be interviewed.
The judge, Clinton Canady III, said, “Hopefully Mr. Robertson can be rehabilitated, but a dangerous pattern has been established here.”
Upon Robertson’s dismissal, Dantonio defended MSU’s vetting and on-campus precautionary measures and said in a statement, “Despite those measures, Auston broke our trust and expectations by putting himself in a compromising situation.”