Judge tosses another Curtis Blackwell suit claiming Dantonio, Beekman, lawyers disparaged him

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
View Comments

Another federal lawsuit brought by former Michigan State staffer Curtis Blackwell against ex-football coach Mark Dantonio and lawyers has been dismissed.

United States District Judge Sean F. Cox, of the Eastern District of Michigan, made the judgment in a 41-page order Friday.

This is the second federal suit brought by Blackwell that has been tossed, along with a state case that also has been dismissed.

Former Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Curtis Blackwell was let go for "philosophical differences."

This federal suit was filed in June 2020, after the first federal suit, claiming he was unfairly fired by the Dantonio and the university, was dismissed a month earlier. In this suit, Blackwell and lawyer Andrew Paterson — who was sanctioned by the judge in the first federal suit and continues to battle in court over legal fees owed to the defense team — claimed that Dantonio's and the university's attorney, as well as athletic director Bill Beekman, made false and disparaging comments to the media during the first lawsuit, and also claimed the Jones Day Law Firm damaged Blackwell's reputation by saying in its investigative report that he had violated the school's Relationship Violence & Sexual Misconduct reporting policies.

Cox dismissed all claims brought by Paterson against Dantonio, Beekman, Dantonio's and the university's attorney Thomas Kienbaum, the Jones Day law firm and one of Jones Day's lawyers, Louis P. Gabel.

The original complaint in the second federal case was only against Kienbaum; the other defendants were added later.

More: Recruiting trouble: Inside the sex assault scandal that threw MSU football for a loss

Paterson, on Friday night, said he is exploring appeal options.

"There are a number of appealable issues, which I'm very confident once reviewed by a panel on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court's order will be reversed," Paterson said in a statement provided to The News. "The record and evidence are clear: MSU and Mark Dantonio violated Curtis Blackwell's constitutional rights when they attempted to make Mr. Blackwell the scapegoat for their unethical actions. Real soon, the full truth will be revealed."

A message for Kienbaum wasn't immediately returned Friday.

Paterson still owes tens of thousands of dollars in court orders to the defense attorneys from the first federal case, after a judge blasted his and fellow plaintiff attorney Thomas Warnicke's lack of decorum with its filings during discovery and other phases of the lawsuit. Warnicke didn't join the second federal lawsuit but was the attorney for Blackwell's state-court case that was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, eventually transferred to Ingham County Circuit Court, and dismissed in December 2020.

Cox, likewise, criticized Paterson's efforts in the second case, too.

We're running a new-subscriber special — $1 for three months. Come join the fun, and subscribe here.

In the first case, Blackwell claimed he was made the scapegoat by Michigan State after three football players were accused of sexual assault at a January 2017 apartment party. Blackwell, under suspicion of withholding information about the allegations from campus authorities, was arrested that February by MSU Police but never charged, but was suspended for several months until his contract ran out and wasn't renewed. Dantonio initially cited "philosophical differences" for letting Blackwell go.

The independent investigation by Jones Day cited only Blackwell for breaking protocol in his role as a mandatory reporter. Blackwell declined a Jones Day interview.

Blackwell made explosive allegations in his first lawsuit — which was against the university, Dantonio, former president Lou Anna K. Simon, as well as the two arresting officers — among them that Dantonio recruited star player Auston Robertson, against the advice of multiple assistant coaches. Robertson is currently in prison for rape. Blackwell also alleged, with photo evidence, that Dantonio committed recruiting violations.

Hours after the NCAA allegations surfaced, Dantonio, who had sat for a seven-hour deposition, retired Feb. 4, 2020, after 13 seasons as head coach, but insisted the court case had nothing to do with his decision.

The allegations were reported to the NCAA; there has been no update on any repercussions.

Blackwell still runs the Detroit-based Sound Mind Sound Body football camps that first drew Dantonio's interest in hiring him to his staff in 2013.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

View Comments