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Lawyers want one more hour to question MSU's Mark Dantonio

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio might not be done being deposed.

Lawyers for Curtis Blackwell, Dantonio's former recruiting guru who has filed wrongful termination and wrongful arrest lawsuits against his former employer, want another hour and five minutes to question Dantonio about a number of topics, according to court documents filed this week.

Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio

Dantonio's lawyers three times have rebuffed the plaintiffs' request, both via emails and a phone call, according to court filings.

"Defendant’s counsel stated on the record that he would not produce Defendant Dantonio for the completion of his deposition," wrote Tom Warnicke, one of Blackwell's attorneys. "Dantonio’s counsel further stated that Plaintiff’s counsel would have to file a motion if he wanted to complete the deposition."

SPECIAL REPORT: Michigan State football sex assault scandals

On Jan. 10 at federal court in Grand Rapids, Dantonio was deposed for five hours and five minutes — not including breaks for lunch, etc. — on a wide range of topics. The deposition was shut down because the court was closing for the day.

Blackwell's attorneys say they have more questions and more evidence to enter into the public record, and need that extra hour. Dantonio's attorneys argue the plaintiff counsel "wasted" much of the time with "irrelevant" questioning, and took an unusually large number of unneccessary breaks.

Federal deposition laws require witnesses to sit for a full seven hours, not including breaks, but Dantonio's lawyers argue that is meant to be over one day. Dantonio's lawyers previously had argued that he didn't need to sit for seven hours, but a judge shot that down, and said there would be no restrictions on scope of questioning. Blackwell's lawyers had fought and won the right to ask about the questionable recruiting of Auston Robertson — a highly touted defensive lineman who had a history of sexual misconduct before coming to Michigan State, was accepted by Dantonio against assistant coaches' wishes, and who raped within a year of being on campus and is serving up to 10 years in federal prison — as well as the Larry Nassar scandal.

It's not yet clear all of what Dantonio was asked about during his deposition, which was allowed to take place after the football season, per a judge's ruling.

Curtis Blackwell

The deposition transcript hasn't yet been made public, and it's not yet clear if it will be. A portion of the deposition with former Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis — the portion where he discusses Robertson — has been sealed, and the rest of the transcript hasn't been made public yet. Depositions with the two MSU Police detectives who also are being sued also have been sealed.

Former MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon also has been deposed. It's not clear if her deposition has been sealed, though a transcript has not yet been filed.

Blackwell's attorneys also have sought and received permission for depositions with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who tried to lure Blackwell away from Michigan State before MSU responded with a significant raise for Blackwell, as well as Robertson, who's jailed in the Upper Peninsula.

Dantonio hasn't spoken publicly recently about the lawsuit. At a coaches' convention in Lansing last week, he spoke briefly to attendees, but left without taking any questions from the media.

Blackwell, 42, in lawsuits that now are more than a year old, is suing Dantonio, Hollis, Simon and the university for what he calls wrongful termination, alleging he was made a "scapegoat" in the wake of a January 2017 party at which three players were accused of sexual assault. He also is suing MSU Police for wrongful arrest, seeking up to $5.5 million in damages. MSU Police accused him of obstructing the investigation into the party and the sexual assault; he never was charged with a crime.

Blackwell was hired by MSU in the summer 2013, and his year-to-year contract wasn't renewed in May 2017.

tpaul@detrotnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984