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Michigan AG asked to reopen Mich. St. rape case

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Published in Breaking News
Monday, 30 March 2020 08:50

A woman who told police that she was sexually assaulted by a Michigan State basketball player asked the Michigan attorney general's office last week to investigate her case after local prosecutors declined to file charges.

Michigan State University police told prosecutors that they had probable cause that Spartans sophomore basketball player Brock Washington raped the woman on Jan. 19 while she was too intoxicated to consent, according to a police report and emails obtained by ESPN via a public records request to the Ingham County prosecutor's office. Police referred the case to county prosecutors, who declined to file charges this month.

Washington, who two years ago pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault stemming from a separate sex crime investigation, was suspended without explanation by Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in late January. During questioning by police in the most recent case, Washington changed his story about the night in question several times, acknowledged that the woman was so drunk that she was incapacitated and admitted to police that he had sexual contact with her, according to the police report.

ESPN made several attempts to reach Washington for comment and tried to contact his current attorney and a previous one, Peter Samouris. Samouris said he was not familiar with the current case, but he spoke with Washington and Washington's father Friday to relay questions from ESPN.

"It's my understanding he's not going to be charged, and he doesn't wish to speak," Samouris said. "He's maintained his innocence 100 percent of the time."

Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon issued a statement to ESPN saying that she declined to charge Washington because the case "does not meet the burden of proof that we must present to a jury."

The woman, who spoke to ESPN on the condition of anonymity, said that on March 11 she met with assistant prosecuting attorney Sarah Pulda and was told that she had been "too intoxicated to prove that it [sexual contact] was forced."

The statement shocked and angered the woman: "That was the whole point of the charge, that I was too drunk to consent to what happened," she said. "The prosecutor failed me completely. I have to take it into my own hands ... and hopefully get justice in the long run."

Michigan law states that someone can be charged and found guilty of criminal sexual conduct if the alleged perpetrator "engages in sexual penetration with another person" and "causes personal injury to the victim, and the actor knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally incapable, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless."

"[Pulda] recommended that I read my police report to help put my mind to ease," the woman wrote in a letter she sent Thursday to the AG's office, which she shared with ESPN. "After reading it, my mind is the complete opposite, and my trust in the justice system is completely diminished."

Although her letter does not explicitly ask state officials to reopen the investigation, she told ESPN that she corresponded with an assistant attorney general and requested that the office investigate her case.

Pulda did not respond to requests for an interview, and Siemon said she was too busy with coronavirus-related matters to respond to questions about the case. A spokeswoman for the attorney general said she could not confirm that a letter had been received, but a person with knowledge of the office's operations said it had. A Michigan State University police spokesman did not respond to messages left Friday

Michigan State University police recommended charging Washington with first-degree criminal sexual conduct after interviewing him, the woman, her roommate who was with her the night of the alleged incident and an Uber driver who took her home, according to the police report. Police also recommended charging the woman's roommate with obstructing a criminal investigation after she changed her story the second time she was interviewed by police. The prosecutor has not filed charges against the roommate.

The woman who accused Washington said she has been in contact with Michigan State's office of institutional equity, and a Title IX investigation is ongoing. A spokeswoman for the university declined to comment on the investigation. The woman is not a student at Michigan State but attends a nearby college. Washington remains enrolled at Michigan State and remained suspended from the team for the duration of its season, the spokeswoman said.

In her interview with police, the woman said she and her roommate met Washington at an East Lansing bar on Jan. 18, and both went to his apartment in the early-morning hours of Jan. 19. The woman told police that Washington began pouring shots of Jack Daniels whiskey for the three of them, and other basketball players arrived later. The woman, who was first interviewed by police on Jan. 19, said she remembers taking one shot, but her roommate later told her she took several, according to the report.

She told police that she vaguely remembers then going into Washington's bedroom with Washington and her roommate. "[The woman] said she completely blacked out after that," according to the police report.

The woman said she woke up at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 19 in her apartment and noticed that she was still wearing her leggings but was not wearing any underwear, according to the report. She told police that she searched her apartment and could not find her underwear. She said she also noticed dried blood in her leggings and blood in her vagina, though she was not menstruating at the time.

Because she said she was not able to remember much of anything that happened, she consulted her roommate, who told her that "[the woman] was completely unresponsive at the party and had to be carried out of Washington's apartment to the Uber, then the Uber driver had to carry [the woman] up to their apartment," according to the report.

Security camera footage reviewed by police shows Washington, the woman and her roommate entering his apartment building at 1:05 a.m. and two of Washington's teammates entering about 50 minutes later. One of the teammates told police that when he and the other player arrived at Washington's apartment, he at first didn't realize the women were there and became aware of them only when they were trying to leave. At 2:41 a.m., the footage shows the woman, her roommate and one of Washington's teammates walking through the building's elevator lobby and stepping outside, according to the report. The woman "doubles over and appears to vomit for a while" and is uncoordinated in her movements, according to the report. Twelve minutes later, the player picks her up, cradles her in his arms and carries her out of the building, the report shows, "and she does not appear to be moving at this time." Police interviewed both of the other teammates, but neither has been accused of any wrongdoing.

The Uber driver who took the woman and her roommate back to their apartment told police that he did not believe the woman could have been responsible for her actions or decision-making, based on how intoxicated she was, according to the report. "If she [the woman] would have been by herself, there was no way I was gonna take her. Or I would have taken her to the hospital. I thought she was that drunk," the driver told police.

The woman initially resisted having a full sexual assault exam at the hospital on Jan. 19.

When a police officer reached her the next day, the officer told the woman that Washington had previously been investigated for sexual assault and that, the officer wrote, "I want to be able to keep other people safe from that same situation." The woman then agreed to a full Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner exam, which was administered Jan. 20.

The woman's sexual assault exam did not find, or was inconclusive for, evidence of male DNA. The nurse who administered the exam noted bruising on the woman's body and "observed dry blood still present, which rubbed off on a vaginal swab."

In a Jan. 21 interview with police, the woman said she noticed bruising on her hip, right shoulder and wrists, on which she also noted that some of the skin had been "rubbed off," according to the report.

Police interviewed the woman's roommate on Jan. 21. The roommate said that after taking shots of whiskey at Washington's apartment, Washington showed both women his bedroom, according to the report. The roommate told police that they sat on his bed, and the roommate laid back, "resting her eyes." The roommate said she didn't know how long she was resting -- it felt like a second, she said -- before she heard the woman asking her if they could go home, according to the report. The roommate said the woman at that moment was on the floor, and Washington was still in the room and offered to call an Uber to take them home, according to the police report. The roommate said "she did not feel like it was a long period of time that she was resting, but she does not know how long it actually was," according to the report.

The roommate said she left the room briefly, returned and saw Washington trying to get the woman up off the floor, but she "had no strength," according to the report. "[The roommate] stated she has gone out drinking with [the woman] many times and knows she drinks more than her, but she stated she has never seen [the woman] to the point where she could not stand up and had no strength," the report states.

When police asked the roommate why the woman went home without her underwear, the roommate said, "Maybe she was bleeding from something and she took her underwear off in the bathroom at the bar," according to the report.

In an interview with ESPN, the woman said she knew something was wrong when she woke up and her underwear was missing. "I was so confused. I've drank before, but this has never happened," she said. Not having her underwear, she said, didn't make sense. She looked all over her apartment, even searching pockets of coats she hadn't worn in a long time. She woke up in the middle of the night and searched then, too.

"I needed to find some logical reason in order to think that this didn't happen to me," she said. "If I found them, then it would give me some clarity that nothing like that took place."

Police executed a search warrant for Washington's apartment on Jan. 21 and found the woman's underwear in a clothes hamper in his bedroom.

Washington voluntarily talked to police on Jan. 21. He said that he, the roommate and the woman had gone into his bedroom, and he called an Uber for the woman when he realized how intoxicated she was. When the officer asked why police would have found the woman's underwear in his hamper, Washington said he "didn't do anything" with her, but he and the roommate "kissed a little bit," according to the report. "When we saw that [the woman] wasn't good, we ... we made sure to, to stop everything and [unintelligible] and called the Uber and made sure she was ... made sure they got home," he told police.

Washington changed his story after a detective questioned him further and asked whether his DNA would be found in the results of the woman's sexual assault exam. Washington said, "I mean, we might ... from what I remember we might have gone further. But everything was before she ... it hit her," according to the report. Washington also told police that both women had oral sex with him, the report shows.

Police told Washington that the woman noticed blood on herself and had sore wrists and a sore shoulder, and that "a lot of things did not add up," according to the report. Washington then said, "We were planning on doing stuff, and, like, but, it never happened. When me and [the roommate] saw that she was too messed up to do anything, we put her clothes back on, I guess that's why ... I guess we didn't get the underwear back on," according to the report.

The officer advised Washington that he was telling her something he hadn't previously said, and "this would be his opportunity to tell the truth," according to the report. Washington said that in the car on the way to his apartment, one of the women suggested they have a threesome, according to the report.

Washington said he wore a condom while having sex with the roommate; the officer asked about the woman. "I do not remember having sex with [the woman]. But I might have had sex with her too," he told police. The officer pressed further, and according to the report, Washington said he stopped having sex with one of the women when he switched to having vaginal sex with the other. Because the women's names are redacted in the report, it's unclear which woman Washington referred to first.

In her second interview with police on Jan. 28, the roommate said she didn't completely remember what happened in the bedroom, but she ended up on the floor and "something happened," according to the report. She nodded when asked if she and the woman were having oral sex with Washington, and when asked if Washington had intercourse with the woman, the roommate said, "No, I don't remember him doing anything like that."

The roommate admitted to not being truthful in her initial interview, and the officer told her "she needs to be aware that her actions may have consequences."

In a follow-up interview with police on Jan. 28, the woman who accused Washington expressed shock and anger at the fact that Washington admitted to having sex with her and that her roommate was aware that some "sexual activity" occurred. The woman stated, "I want to report it," and later told an advocate who came to the police interview with her, "Don't let me drop it."

That was also the day when she learned police had found her underwear, which she told ESPN she had continued to search for in her apartment.

"I was relieved, but also I knew what that meant ... I just broke down," she said. "That's when I heard he admitted he had sex with me, then heard that [her roommate] was a foot away and was lying about it and didn't do anything for two weeks. That was definitely the worst day."

After the Spartans lost to Indiana on Jan. 23, Izzo ended his postgame media conference by saying, "If you looked at our bench, I did not travel Brock Washington. I suspended him. There's nothing more I'm going to say about it, but I did suspend him. So he's at home and will be suspended." No reporters present at the media conference asked a follow-up question, and Izzo got up and left without saying more.

In 2017, Washington was named the lone suspect in an alleged assault that Michigan State University police classified as fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct after a female student reported that Washington forcibly groped her on Aug. 29, 2017, at a residence hall.

In early 2018, Washington, who was 18 at the time, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, according to police records and a source with knowledge of the information. He pleaded under a provision in Michigan law that allows offenders ages 17 to 23 to plead guilty without a court entering a judgment of conviction, essentially keeping the crime off the public record and dismissing the case as long as terms of a probation are fulfilled.

Washington suited up for every game in the 2017-18 Spartans basketball season but did not receive any playing time.

After ESPN reported in February 2018 that Washington was under investigation for criminal sexual conduct, Michigan State then-interim president John Engler criticized the reporting, saying: "The sad thing is, I think we should, probably as a Michigan State community, apologize to this young man and his family who has been named without, at least in that report, any evidence of any wrongdoing."

Izzo, Michigan State's athletic department and the university as a whole have been under scrutiny in part because of an Outside the Lines investigation published Jan. 26, 2018. The investigation found a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression of sexual assault, violence and gender discrimination complaints by officials ranging from campus police to the Michigan State athletic department. The report revealed not previously known police reports and allegations of sexual or violent incidents involving members of the Michigan State football team and Izzo's storied basketball program.

Earlier this year, the Michigan Attorney General's office took over the criminal investigation of a report a woman made to police last year, alleging that she was raped by three basketball players in 2015, after the Lansing Township police department determined that it did not have the resources to investigate the case. A Michigan State Title IX investigation, started in 2018 and finished last year, did not find the then-former players responsible for violating the school's sexual misconduct policies. The attorney general's investigation into that report is ongoing, and the woman has a pending Title IX gender equity federal lawsuit against the school.

Paula Lavigne is a reporter and Nicole Noren is a producer in ESPN's investigative unit.

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