Prosecutor, police send 2015 sex assault case against ex-MSU basketball players to AG's office

Beth LeBlanc and Jasmin Barmore
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office is expected to investigate allegations that a Michigan State University student was raped by three former basketball team members in 2015, according to the student's lawyer and the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office.

The student's lawyer, Karen Truszkowski, told The Detroit News on Thursday that the office was investigating Bailey Kowalski's case. But a spokeswoman for Nessel's office on Thursday said she could not confirm the department's involvement.

Michigan State University student Bailey Kowalski gets support from her mother, Robin Kowalski, before a press conference in East Lansing in April.

The Ingham County Prosecutor's Office and Lansing Township police chief recently met to discuss the case and "the needed resources to fully conduct the investigation," said Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon. 

"We mutually agreed to refer the investigation to the AG’s office, and the AG’s office determined that they would accept the case for further investigation and any review of criminal charges," Siemon said in an email. 

The case was sent to the attorney general a few days ago and it's possible the department doesn't have it in its possession yet, Lansing Township police Chief John Joseph said Thursday. 

Kowalski's case was under investigation by the Lansing Township Police Department in July when Joseph was hired at the department.

But the department has no full-time detective, Joseph said, and the case deserved more resources than his department could provide. 

"Its a complicated case and the accused aren't around anymore," Joseph said. "I didn't want it to languish because it deserves attention."

The potential involvement of Nessel's office was first reported by the Lansing State Journal

Kowalski revealed in April she is the MSU student identified as "Jane Doe" who is suing the university in federal court for violating her rights because she allegedly was raped by three basketball players four years ago and school officials discouraged her from reporting the assault.

Kowalski said the athletes sexually assaulted her in April 2015, and she sued MSU in U.S. District Court in Lansing in 2018. She is working toward completing her degree in sports journalism.

According to her lawsuit, on the morning of April 12, 2015, most of the MSU basketball team arrived at Harper's Bar after the team had returned to East Lansing earlier in the week after being eliminated from the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament by Duke University.

Kowalski was approached by members of the basketball team, who bought her drinks and invited her back to an apartment party, according to the lawsuit.

When they arrived at the off-campus apartment, there was no party and Kowalski had a "hard time holding on to her glass even though she had not had a lot to drink," according to the lawsuit.

At that point, three student-athletes took turns raping her in a bedroom, according to the lawsuit. 

Kowalski's lawyers claim that in her attempt to report it to the university, she was told by MSU Counseling Center staff that cases with "guys with big names" are common and the best thing to do was to "just get yourself better."

The lawsuit further states that Kowalski was told by MSUCC staff that "if you pursue this, you are going to be swimming with some really big fish."

An MSU spokeswoman previously declined to comment directly on the lawsuit after it was filed.

"The university takes sexual assault and Title IX situations very seriously and is dedicated to making sure every student receives fair treatment and support when they need it,” university spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said in an April 2019 email to The Detroit News.

On Thursday, Guerrant said the university had not yet been notified of the attorney general's involvement in the case. 

"But regardless, MSU plans to cooperate with an investigation if it happens," she said.