Federal judge tosses case alleging sexual assault by three MSU basketball players

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

A lawsuit accusing three Michigan State basketball players of sexually assaulting a women six years ago has been dismissed by a federal judge. The lawsuit was against the university, not the players.

Bailey Kowalski, a former Michigan State student, filed the lawsuit in 2018, saying three players assaulted her in 2015, just days after the team returned from playing in the Final Four where it lost to Duke in the national semifinals.

Breslin Center in East Lansing

When Kowalski reported the incident to counselors at Michigan State, she claims she was told that cases with "guys with big names" are common and the best thing to do was to "just get yourself better.” Her original lawsuit further stated that Kowalski was told by MSUCC staff that "if you pursue this, you are going to be swimming with some really big fish.”

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Maloney determined a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit significantly changed Title IX case law.

Maloney had originally ruled that Kowalski’s claims were “plausible” that the university maintained policies that left her and other female students vulnerable. However, in December of 2019 in another case, the Circuit Court held that “a student-victim plaintiff must plead, and ultimately prove, that the school had actual knowledge of actionable sexual harassment and that the school’s deliberate indifference to it resulted in further actionable sexual harassment against the student-victim, which caused the Title IX injuries.”

Based on that, Maloney ruled to dismiss the case. The players are unnamed.

A Michigan State spokesperson said there would be no comment from the university. Reached by The News, Kowalski’s attorney, Karen Truszkowski, said, “It is a disappointment but not unexpected. It is important to keep in mind that this case was not dismissed because there was a question as to whether the assaults happened. The order is very clear on that point.”

Michigan State had previously cleared the players of wrongdoing.

Kowalski is also part of a federal lawsuit along with six other women — including former MSU track athlete Emma Roedel — that is suing the NCAA for “failing to address gender-based violence committed by male student-athletes against female students and student-athletes.”

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mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau