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Judge: 'Plausible' Michigan State Buried Assault Claims

Paul Steinbach

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that it's "plausible" Michigan State University buried sexual assault claims brought against athletes and let its athletic department deal with those issues outside the normal university process.

"The Court finds that the allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint render plausible her claim that MSU maintained official policies that left her and other female students vulnerable to sexual assault by male athletes," the ruling by Judge Paul Maloney said, as reported by the Detroit Free Press.

"Plaintiff has sufficiently pleaded that MSU allowed reports of sexual assault to be handled 'off-line' by the Athletic Department and outside the normal channels of Title IX investigations. Similarly, the attempts to cover up or otherwise obfuscate the University’s handling of sexual assault reports made against male athletes, the attempts to conceal the names of prominent male athletes when mentioned in police reports, and the attempts to discourage female victims from reporting their own assaults all tend to show that sexual assaults by male athletes were handled in ways that would minimize scrutiny and potential punishment for such acts."

In issuing the ruling, Maloney denied a move by MSU to reject a lawsuit by Bailey Kowalski, who claimed that multiple basketball players — whom she has not named — sexually assaulted her in a player's apartment on April 12, 2015.

In her lawsuit, Kowalski said she was at a bar when team members arrived. She said she was invited to a party that didn't exist. Instead, she was forcefully thrown on a bed, held down and raped, according to the lawsuit.

Kowalski didn't report the alleged assault to police or campus officials. She said in her lawsuit that she visited the MSU Counseling Center about a week after the incident, and staff there discouraged her from making a report after she told them basketball players were involved. 

In June, MSU investigators cleared the basketball players of all wrongdoing after Kowalski also filed a Title IX report with the school.

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