Michigan State basketball player Brock Washington has been charged by prosecutors in Ingham County, Michigan, with misdemeanor assault after a criminal sexual conduct investigation.
Washington was charged under Michigan penal code 750.81 -- "assault or assault and battery" -- on March 8, according to the criminal history database for the Michigan State Police. The 19-year-old walk-on from Southfield, Michigan, had been named as the lone suspect in an alleged assault that Michigan State campus police last fall classified as fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, sources close to the investigation told Outside the Lines in February.
The case number from the State Police database corresponds to a report in MSU's Clery Crime and Fire Log, which shows that a forcible sexual contact incident occurred at 3 a.m. on Aug. 29, 2017, in a university residence hall and was reported to police two days later. Sources have told Outside the Lines that a female student told campus police that Washington had groped her without her permission.
After an investigation, police forwarded their findings to the county prosecutor's office on Dec. 13. When asked Tuesday about the case, chief assistant prosecuting attorney Lisa McCormick said only that "there was no public record" on which she could comment.
Outside the Lines reached out Wednesday to MSU spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant and to athletic department spokesperson Matt Larson for comment from the university and Washington. Guerrant said Thursday afternoon that she was still trying to gather information and determine what the university could disclose about the case. Outside the Lines followed up Friday morning, but Guerrant could not be reached for comment. An email sent by a reporter Thursday morning to Washington's student account was not answered.
On Feb. 6, Outside the Lines submitted a public records request for the police report naming Washington; MSU officials asked for an extension, which under Michigan law gave the school until Feb. 28 to respond. On March 7, a day before Washington was formally charged, MSU responded by denying the request. Interim president John Engler upheld that decision last week in a response to an ESPN appeal of that denial, writing that he could not give the specific reason as to why the report was being withheld, because "even naming this statute gives information that the statute specifically was designed to protect."
In Michigan, an individual accused of a crime can plead guilty to a variety of offenses -- including certain felonies -- and have the records of the plea and other court proceedings sealed and kept from public view via a handful of deferred judgment programs. One of the deferral options commonly given to college students is known as the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, under which eligible offenders ages 17 to 23 can avoid having criminal convictions on their records as long as they plead guilty to a crime covered under the act and successfully adhere to court-ordered supervision or probation terms for a set period of time, after which their cases are dismissed.
Penal code 750.81 is covered under HYTA; the State Police database listed no information about whether Washington's case has been adjudicated within the court system.
On Wednesday, three now-former MSU football players facing sexual assault crimes accepted plea deals to felony charges of seduction under HYTA. Examples of other athletes who have pleaded under HYTA include former MSU-recruit Jayru Campbell, who pleaded to misdemeanor aggravated assault, and former MSU tight end Dion Sims, who pleaded to felony receiving and concealing stolen property.
In 2017, according to Lansing-area media reports, Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Grant Perry, who faced two charges of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County, agreed to plea under HYTA to felony resisting arrest and misdemeanor assault and battery. The charges stemmed from an incident in October 2016, when Perry was accused of grabbing a female MSU student in a sexual manner in a line at an East Lansing bar and then later resisting arrest. Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh suspended Perry from the team after the incident.
Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct is considered a high-court misdemeanor in Michigan, meaning the maximum penalty for someone found guilty of the offense is two years of incarceration compared to the typical maximum sentence of one year for a regular misdemeanor. The particular misdemeanor assault code under which Washington was formally charged carries a maximum sentence for a first-time offender of up to 93 days imprisonment and/or a $500 fine.
Washington suited up for coach Tom Izzo's team every game this season, but as a younger member of an elite team, he did not receive any playing time. In October, Izzo said Washington and another walk-on "are capable of playing someplace" but were, at the time, shining as scout-team players, according to a tweet from a Detroit Free Press reporter. Izzo was not made available to comment for this story.
After a Michigan State University board of trustees meeting in February, Engler, the university interim president, criticized Outside the Lines' reporting on Washington, 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."
On Wednesday, Outside the Lines asked Guerrant whether Engler had any comment about whether he believes Washington is still owed an apology and whether he had anything to say regarding the alleged victim. Guerrant said Thursday that she had not had a chance to speak with Engler.
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 on Jan. 26. 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 MSU athletic department.
The report publicized not-previously-known police reports of sexual or violent incidents involving members of the MSU football team and Izzo's storied basketball program, including one report made against Travis Walton, a former undergraduate student-assistant coach who continued coaching after he had been criminally charged with assault and battery after allegedly punching a female MSU student in the face at a bar in 2010. A few months later, after the Spartans qualified for the 2010 Final Four, Walton was accused, in a university document, of having sexually assaulted a different female student.
Engler and former athletic director Mark Hollis have been critical of ESPN, calling the reports inaccurate and sensationalized. On Monday, Outside the Lines reported that Michigan State officials would "handle it differently" if an allegation such as the one made against Walton were to occur today. The Monday report also stated that university officials provided personnel documents that showed Walton had held multiple jobs with the university; MSU officials had previously told ESPN that no such records existed. Walton also had denied he was ever employed by the university.
Walton has denied that he sexually assaulted anyone. He never faced sexual assault charges related to the 2010 allegation. He also denied punching the other woman; that case was dismissed in lieu of him pleading to a civil infraction for littering.
Content associate Alex Eliasof contributed to this report.