Michigan State dismisses Auston Robertson after sexual assault charge

Michigan State freshman defensive end Auston Robertson has been kicked off the team following a charge of third-degree sexual assault.

Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon announced Friday morning that Robertson, 19, was charged in the 55th District Court one day after her office received the results of an investigation by police from Meridian Township, near Michigan State's campus in East Lansing.

Court records indicate that Robertson is being charged with violating a part of the law that prohibits using any type of force or coercion. The maximum prison sentence for third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Michigan is 15 years.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio announced later Friday that Robertson is no longer part of the program.

"The criminal sexual conduct charges announced today against Auston Robertson are of the most serious nature," Dantonio said in a statement. "Sexual assault has no place in our community. While there is an ongoing criminal process, we're extremely disappointed that Auston put himself in this position."

Dantonio announced last week that a player connected with an April 9 assault investigation in Meridian Township had been suspended from the team but did not identify Robertson at the time.

According to testimony of Det. Rebecca Payne from the Meridian Township Police Department, Robertson forced a young woman to have sex with him and continued the act after she "was telling him to stop and saying no."

After his girlfriend drove them to the woman's apartment, Robertson said he was going to walk his accuser to the door to see that she got home safely, then he entered the apartment. At one point, Payne said, he stopped abruptly and told the woman that she couldn't tell anyone about what he was doing.

The detective said Robertson did not provide a statement when she contacted him a couple of days after the incident.

In January 2016, Robertson was formally arrested on battery charges stemming from an incident when he improperly touched a female student at his high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Robertson entered a diversionary program for those charges last March and finished his probation last month.

He temporarily delayed signing a letter of intent with Michigan State while sorting through those legal issues. He played seven games as a true freshman for the Spartans last fall and made three tackles.

Dantonio explained the team's recruitment of Robertson during the statement issued Friday.

"Due to the charges he was facing during his recruitment, we took precaution in allowing Auston to be a part of our football program, including a thorough vetting, which we acknowledged publicly at his signing," the coach said. "This was a multiple-step process that continued through his final admission in the summer.

"Following his arrival on campus, he underwent an extensive educational process with specific prerequisites put in place for his participation as a student-athlete. This included daily supervised sessions within the football program and regular meetings with university staff addressing appropriate behavior and developmental growth. He also successfully completed his one-year diversionary program as directed by the court, which included a 22-week course focused on behavior changes that began in Indiana and was transferred to the state of Michigan (Prevention and Training Services). Despite these measures, Auston broke our trust and expectations by putting himself in a compromising situation."

These charges are not related to a January alleged sexual assault involving three other Michigan State football players and a member of the team's staff. Those three players have been suspended from the football program since Feb. 9. Recruiting director Curtis Blackwell was also suspended Feb. 9, but the school has declined to say why Blackwell was suspended. University police requested four arrest warrants on Feb. 16 for that incident. The prosecutor has yet to decide if she will charge anyone with a crime in that case.