EAST LANSING, MICH. - Three Michigan State University football players were dismissed from the team on Tuesday, shortly after a judge issued arrest warrants for them on sexual assault charges.
Josh King, 19, of Darien, Illinois, is charged with one count of first degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of third degree criminal sexual conduct, as well as with capturing an image of an unclothed person. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Donnie Corley, 19, and Demetric Vance, 20, both of Detroit, are charged with third degree criminal sexual conduct. They each face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Once the three men have been arrested, they will be arraigned on the charges, a judge will decide bond and dates will be set for initial court hearings.
The charges stem from a Jan. 16 incident at a party at a campus apartment when Det. Chad Davis, of the MSU police department, testified that King asked a woman if she “wanted to speak somewhere quiet.” Davis added that the woman remembered being in two rooms but said King eventually “pulled her into a bathroom and “tried to get the victim to have sex with him.”
“The victim said that King forced (her) to perform oral sex on him,” then “pulled her pants down” and had vaginal sex with her, Davis testified.
During this time, King let Vance and Corley into the bathroom at separate times, the detective added, and each forced her to perform oral sex on them.
"The victim said she eventually collapsed to the floor and all three suspects left the bathroom promptly," Davis told Judge Richard Ball on Tuesday morning during a hearing that led to charges.
Davis also testified:
- When questioned by police, all three players initially denied having any sexual contact with anyone at the party. All three later eventually admitted having sexual contact with the alleged victim in the bathroom.
- During the investigation, police found a “suspicious” text message thread between the three players and a fourth MSU football player, who officials did not identify. The conversation included dialogue indicating the three players’ “involvement in the sexual assault."
- Police also found a video on King’s cell phone that showed him having sex with the woman in the bathroom.
- When police asked the victim about the video, she said she was not aware of the recording and did not consent to it.
Head coach Mark Dantonio officially dismissed the players from the football team shortly after the hearing in Ball’s courtroom.
“I have decided that regardless of the final outcome of the criminal process, these three individuals have been dismissed from our program, effective immediately,” he said in a statement. “When we choose student-athletes to come to MSU, we enter into a relationship with them and their families, and we welcome them into ours.
“… Sexual assault has no place in our community, and I want to share my deep concern for the young woman affected and her family.”
The university announced on Feb. 9 that three players and a staff member associated with the team, later identified as Curtis Blackwell, had been suspended amid a sexual assault investigation.
The MSU police department sent its first request for warrants on Feb. 16, and that same day prosecutors asked for further investigation. Police sent their second request for charges to prosecutors on March 14.
In a statement after warrants were issued, MSU Police Chief Jim Dunlap said his department spent more than 1,500 hours on the investigation and conducted more than 100 interviews and contacts.
"The MSU Police Department has zero tolerance for sexual assault," Dunlap said. "I’m confident that this extensive investigation was completed thoroughly, and our detectives worked diligently and exhaustively in providing information to the prosecutor’s office."
Karen Truszkowski, an attorney for the reported victim, asked the media to respect the privacy of her client, saying the case is dramatic and difficult, and that her client “is in as good a place as anybody can be with what’s happened.”
"This is going to be a very difficult day for my client," Truszkowski said, adding there were some details her client was not aware of. "This is a very sensitive situation for a young woman. She's doing as best as she can but I'm sure that this is going to be really difficult when she finds out what's been put in the public record."
Messages were left seeking comment from attorneys representing King and Vance.
"It’s never a good day when a criminal charge is filed against you, but at least Mr. Corley knows what he is facing and can get on with the process of fighting it," John Shea, Corley's attorney, said in statement. "As appropriately noted by Prosecutor Siemon in her statement, at this point the charge is only an accusation and Mr. Corley is presumed to be innocent. He maintains that, in fact, he IS innocent, and we intend to demonstrate that in the coming proceedings."
The university’s Title IX investigation, conducted by an independent investigator MSU hired, found that all three players violated the university’s relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy.
In a statement, MSU spokesman Jason Cody said, "The criminal sexual conduct charges brought today by the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office against Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance are deeply disturbing. Sexual violence is abhorrent, and our thoughts are with the young woman and her family at this difficult time."
Cody said MSU could not comment on the Title IX investigation, but reiterated the university has "strong policies in place and a longstanding commitment to do all we can to prevent sexual assault, to encourage speedy reporting when it does occur, and to support victims."
MSU is being sued by more than 95 women in connection with alleged sexual assaults by former university doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar's criminal cases in Eaton and Ingham counties and in federal court are pending.
MSU is also being sued in federal court by four women who say the university failed to adequately respond to their sexual assault complaints and protect them from retaliation. That lawsuit is unrelated to Nassar and came months after a federal investigation into how MSU handled sexual assault and harassment complaints on campus.
Blackwell, 39, had been the team's director of college advancement and performance at the time of the suspension.
Last month, Dantonio decided not to renew Blackwell’s contract, which was set to expire May 31. The contract previously had been extended twice, a month at a time.
A report released on Monday from the law firm Jones Day, hired by MSU to investigate the football program's handling of two reported sexual assaults, determined that there's evidence Blackwell violated university policy.
The law firm was "unable to gauge the severity" of potential policy violations because Blackwell declined to be interviewed.
Prosecutors declined to authorize criminal charges against Blackwell.
Check back for updates.
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© 2017 Lansing State Journal