Michigan State failed to support woman in sexual assault case, lawsuit states

A woman who reported that she was sexually assaulted by a Michigan State football player in 2015 filed a Title IX gender discrimination lawsuit Sunday, alleging that the school failed in its investigation of her complaint and in not supporting or protecting her despite multiple requests for help.

The lawsuit stems from a report that former Michigan State wide receiver Keith Mumphery sexually assaulted the woman, who goes by Jane Doe in the lawsuit, in her dorm room on March 17, 2015. It states that the school failed to provide her with counseling and academic support while twice investigating her complaint and, after eventually finding Mumphery in violation, did not uphold a provision banning him from campus.

"My client is frustrated and wants to make a difference," said the woman's attorney, Karen Truszkowski. "We felt that we didn't have any other choice in this matter."

Michigan State did not have any comment when first contacted about the lawsuit late Sunday night.

On Monday, Michigan State spokesman Jason Cody said: "MSU just became aware of the lawsuit this morning. Sexual misconduct in all of its forms is an issue our leaders take very seriously. We have taken and continue to take significant steps to increase campus resources and revise campus policies to hear complaints in a timely and fair manner.

"While MSU does not comment on pending litigation, we will continue work to improve how MSU prevents and responds to sexual assault as we defend against this lawsuit."

On March 17, 2015, the woman had been drinking and was intoxicated when she invited Mumphery to her room, according to the lawsuit, but she resisted Mumphery's attempts to pull her onto his lap. She "just wanted to hang out but Mumphery wanted sex. Mumphery sexually assaulted [her] in her dorm room," it states. The lawsuit also states that Mumphery called her a "dumb white girl" and a "tease" and then left.

The woman's report the next day to Michigan State resulted in a Title IX investigation that six months later found that Mumphery had not violated the school's violence and sexual assault policy.

The woman also filed a police report alleging sexual assault. Police investigated her claim, but the county prosecutor's office decided not to bring charges against Mumphery in August 2015, citing a lack of evidence and saying prosecutors were unable to get in contact with Mumphery's accuser. Mumphery told police that the woman seduced him in her dorm room on the night in question after months of messaging each other.

The lawsuit states that during the school's Title IX investigation, which took almost twice as long as the school's policy of 90 days, Michigan State did not offer the woman any options to get a no-contact order, rearrange her housing, seek counseling or academic support or change her class schedule. Those were all provisions required under U.S. Department of Education guidelines and university policy, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that during the investigation, "Mumphery could roam the campus completely unrestricted." The woman worked in the same campus building as the Title IX investigators, and when she raised a concern about seeing Mumphery when he came in for interviews, she was told to merely "be on the lookout," but no assistance was offered, according to the lawsuit. It states that she quit her job "because she was so fearful of running into Mumphery or of him retaliating against her."

The woman suffered mentally and emotionally, having "flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance and depression," and her "right to an educational opportunity came to a screeching halt," the lawsuit states.

"Plaintiff was afraid every day after the assault. Plaintiff did not know who knew about the assault or who might retaliate against her," it states. "She was fearful that she would see Mumphery, his friends, or his fellow football players. Plaintiff constantly looked over her shoulder and became withdrawn."

In September 2015, the MSU Office for Institutional Equity's Title IX investigators found that Mumphery had not violated Michigan State's relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy.

The university finished its investigation into her complaint around the same time the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights had finished its review of Michigan State's handling of sexual violence cases. That investigation was prompted by two complaints from other female students, one of whom reported being sexually assaulted by two Michigan State basketball players in 2010.

Michigan State was found to be in violation of federal guidelines in several respects, including the way in which the university investigated complaints. On Aug. 28, 2015, the university entered into a 21-page resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to improve its prevention and response procedures. One of the mandates was to review handling of prior complaints, which it did in the woman's case involving Mumphery.

As a result, a university review panel determined in January 2016 that the Title IX investigators had erred, and on March 21, 2016, it was determined that the woman had not given consent and that Mumphery violated the policy by sexually assaulting her, the lawsuit states. Mumphery, who last played for the Spartans in 2014, was expelled from his graduate studies program and banned from campus until Dec. 31, 2018.

In May 2015, just weeks after the reported assault, he was drafted by the Houston Texans, where he played two seasons. The Texans cut him two days after the sexual assault allegations were first made public in a May 31, 2017, story in the Detroit Free Press.

The lawsuit notes that on June 14, 2016 -- just a week after he had been banned from campus -- an MSU Twitter account tweeted that Mumphery had been invited to a university-sponsored football camp on campus.

The tweet from the @MSU_Football account reads "#SpartansinNFL heading back to @michiganstateu to work camp!" and includes his @GeorgiaBoi25 Twitter handle among those from four former players listed. The lawsuit states that he was also invited to a golf outing, at which he appeared.

During that weekend, "[the woman] was terrified when her friends notified her that Mumphrey had been spotted on campus and around East Lansing," the lawsuit states, and continues to note that she "began calling campus authorities, but received no information and was merely shuffled from department to department."

In laying out the ways in which Michigan State failed to uphold the provisions of Title IX, the lawsuit puts the woman's experience in a broader context, stating the university has "engaged in a custom and practice of suppressing sexual assault grievances, of violating their own policies regarding sexual assault investigations ... thereby encouraging a culture of sexual violence and creating a hostile educational environment."

The lawsuit was filed less than a week after former Michigan State team doctor and physician for USA Gymnastics Larry Nassar pleaded guilty to seven sexual assault charges. Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander is among several women who have accused the university of working against those who came forward to report Nassar's abuse, and she's among more than 140 women and girls who have filed lawsuits against Nassar, Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

"For decades, MSU and [USA Gymnastics] athletic trainers, supervisors, head coaches and even psychologists received first-hand testimony of the sexual abuse perpetrated by Larry," Denhollander said last week. "Each and every time, MSU officials silenced these victims."

Earlier this month, a federal judge in another Title IX case against Michigan State -- this one involving four former female students -- denied the university's overall request to dismiss the lawsuit and allowed three of the women's claims to proceed.