Lawsuit claims 3 Michigan State basketball players raped female student in 2015

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo walks off the court after the Spartans were eliminated from the 2018 NCAA tournament. (AP)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo walks off the court after the Spartans were eliminated from the 2018 NCAA tournament. (AP)

A Michigan State student has filed a lawsuit against the university alleging that three MSU basketball players raped her in 2015 and the school did little to help her afterward. The lawsuit was filed on Monday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Questions have circled head coach Tom Izzo and the Michigan State leadership since an explosive report from ESPN “Outside the Lines” that led to the resignations of university president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis. Adreian Payne and Keith Appling, members of that 2015 team, were among the names that surfaced in the ESPN report.

“MSU has fostered a culture in which female victims are discouraged from reporting sexual assaults when those assaults are perpetrated by male athletes, thus protecting the university, the male athletics programs, and the male athletes at the expense of the female victims,” the lawsuit stated.

Per a report from ESPN, the players aren’t identified because the focus of the lawsuit is “the way she was treated by the university.” The plaintiff’s attorney, Karen Truszkowski, also represents other women who have accused members of the Spartans football team of sexual assault.

The plaintiff, who was an 18-year-old student at the time and a sports journalism major, was allegedly approached at a bar and offered a drink by one of the players, less than a week after the Spartans’ 2015 Final Four run. After accepting, the plaintiff was introduced to the other players and invited to their apartment for a party. At that point, the plaintiff claims she had a hard time holding her glass despite not having much to drink.

The lawsuit alleges that once they arrived at the apartment, the plaintiff realized there was no party and tried to send a text to her roommate, but couldn’t because she was “discombobulated” and didn’t have enough control of her thumbs. The player who initially approached her then pulled her into his room and told her “you are mine for the night.”

The plaintiff, understandably uncomfortable, left the bedroom, but was allegedly offered a chance to see some basketball memorabilia in another bedroom. She also claims she asked for water and was given some because she was thirsty at the time. Upon entering the bedroom, the plaintiff was allegedly pushed onto the bed and held down while the three players took turns raping her.

After waking up on a couch in the apartment, the plaintiff, apparently distraught, called a taxi and was later taken by a roommate to report the rape with the school’s counseling center.

After an initial assessment, the plaintiff told her counselor the perpetrators were basketball players, which allegedly led to an immediate demeanor change and an unidentified staffer to be brought into the room. The plaintiff says she was told by the counseling center’s staff that, among other things, filing a police report would be an “uphill battle” that could create anxiety and and unwanted media attention.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was left so “traumatized, depressed, and withdrawn” that she was admitted to Sparrow Hospital outpatient psychiatric day program for intensive psychiatric treatment. She later withdrew from the university for the fall 2015 semester and resumed classes in 2016 with a different major.

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