Michigan State pays $1.2M to settle complaint

Michigan State University paid a combined $1.2 million to a woman and a former football player who were embroiled in a Title IX investigation and subsequent lawsuits if they both agreed to "set aside" the findings of an investigation that found the football player responsible for violating the school's sexual misconduct policy.

The former female student, listed as "Jane Doe" in settlement documents obtained Tuesday by Outside the Lines as part of a public records request, received $475,000 from the university. The football player, Keith Mumphery, received $725,000.

The settlement ends a Title IX complaint saga that had, at times, resulted in conflicting conclusions.

The woman filed a lawsuit in November 2017, stating that the school did not provide her adequate support services and failed to enforce a campus ban against Mumphery after finding him responsible for violating the school's sexual misconduct policy. Mumphery, who initially had been found not responsible in a 2015 Title IX investigation only to be found responsible the following year, sued MSU in May 2018, claiming that the school violated his due process rights, in part by not keeping him informed about the investigation's proceedings and expelling him over what his lawsuit stated were false accusations.

The May 20 settlement documents state that "MSU agrees there were certain issues in the Title IX investigation, that, under the particular circumstances of this case, may warrant a new investigation and/or hearing."

It stated that Mumphery and the woman agreed to "set aside" the decision finding Mumphery responsible for having sexually assaulted the woman, as well as the disciplinary action taken against Mumphery, and not engage in another investigation. It later states, "MSU takes no position on the allegations between Mumphery and Doe."

MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said the university could not comment on the terms of the settlement agreement or what was meant by "certain issues." She wrote in an email to Outside the Lines that the university has been "examining its Title IX policies over the past few years as it also works to keep up with federal and court changes," citing a recent federal appeals court ruling requiring opportunities to cross-examine witnesses in Title IX investigations, along with changes in federal guidance on investigations; those have focused on improved due process for the accused. "We're doing our best to provide a fair process for both claimants and respondents," Guerrant wrote.

The settlement documents note that the amount of money MSU paid to each party was not disclosed to the opposing party. MSU initially tried to redact the settlement amounts from the records released to Outside the Lines, but it provided a new set of documents with the amounts disclosed after Outside the Lines argued that state public records laws do not allow for the withholding of such information, as the settlement payouts are expenditures of a public institution.

The settlement documents state that the parties are not to disclose any terms and conditions aside from allowing Mumphery to state only "that the findings of the Title IX investigation have been set aside," and that both parties "agree not to make any public statements regarding the facts underlying MSU's Title IX investigation and underlying the subsequent [lawsuits]" that would disparage another party.

In a phone call with Outside the Lines on Tuesday, Mumphery's attorneys, Andrew Miltenberg and Stuart Bernstein, declined to answer several questions, including those about MSU's handling of the case, citing the confidentiality provision of the agreement. They said Mumphery was "satisfied with the resolution of this case" and was "now just looking forward to the future."

Karen Truszkowski, the woman's attorney, also declined to discuss the specific terms of the agreement with Outside the Lines, but said the terms "do not exonerate or implicate Mr. Mumphery either way." But she said the discrepancy between what MSU paid her client and paid Mumphery "disappoints" her.

"I'm puzzled as to why they were so eager to quickly settle Mr. Mumphery's case, but any other survivor of any other harm they fight tooth and nail," she said, referring to the way she said MSU has handled complaints of sexual assault. In January 2018, Outside the Lines published a report that alleged university officials often put the school's reputation above the need to give fair treatment to those reporting sexual violence and to the alleged perpetrators.

Both lawsuits addressed in the Mumphery case settlement documents stem from an incident the woman reported to MSU officials on March 18, 2015. She said Mumphery had sexually assaulted her in her dorm room a day earlier. A six-month Title IX investigation determined in September 2015 that Mumphery had not violated the school's relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy.

By that point, Mumphery, who last played for Michigan State in fall 2014, was already in the NFL, having been drafted by the Texans in May 2015. Mumphery currently is trying to restart his NFL career.

The woman appealed the school's finding, and a new investigator reviewed the case and additional evidence, which included an interview with the sexual assault nurse who had examined the woman. The investigator found on March 21, 2016, that Mumphery had violated university policy by sexually assaulting the woman. Mumphery was banned from campus until Dec. 31, 2018, and prevented from reenrolling at Michigan State, according to the lawsuits.

Mumphery has repeatedly denied the rape allegation, telling investigators that the woman willingly engaged in sexual contact and that she was the one trying to initiate vaginal sex, but she got angry when he insisted on wearing a condom.

In his lawsuit, Mumphery accused MSU of failing to adequately inform him of the second investigation, stating he did not receive emails or letters from MSU regarding the proceedings, including a copy of a June 7, 2016, letter stating the finding of a violation and his ban from campus. It states after Mumphery failed to appear at the proceedings, investigators had other ways to contact him via sources in the athletic department, but did not do so.

"The most troubling part of the case is that when Keith participated he was found not responsible, and then subsequently, without participating, he was found responsible," Miltenberg said.

The complaint against Mumphery was one of 35 complaints of sexual misconduct and relationship violence against MSU athletes since 2012, according to data provided by MSU, and it was one of five -- or about 14 percent -- in which an athlete was found to be at fault. Findings of a violation happened in about 13.5 percent of non-athlete student cases during that same time period of 2012 through academic year 2017-18, according to data provided by the university.

Truszkowski also represents former MSU student Bailey Kowalski, who has a pending Title IX lawsuit against the school for how it responded to her allegation of being raped by three basketball players in 2015. MSU Title IX investigators found the three not responsible for violating the school's sexual misconduct policy, according to a report released last month.

The woman in the Mumphery case also reported her allegations to MSU police in March 2015, but Ingham County assistant prosecutor Steve Kwasnik decided in September 2015 not to file charges, citing a lack of evidence and saying prosecutors were unable to get in contact with Mumphery's accuser.

The case was not made public until a May 31, 2017, Detroit Free Press article detailed the woman's sexual assault allegation and MSU's finding against Mumphery. The Texans cut him from their roster within days, and he has not been signed by an NFL team. In his lawsuit, Mumphery alleged that the publicity surrounding his case cost him his NFL career.

As a result of the settlement, Mumphery would likely not be a part of a separate lawsuit Miltenberg and Bernstein are pursuing against MSU, in which a male student says he was wrongly accused of sexual assault and suspended from the school. On July 5, the lawyers filed to attain class-action status to represent more than 50 male students who state they were wrongly found in violation of sexual misconduct policies and disciplined, with the goal of overturning those findings as well.

"Almost everyone who comes to us in this situation who feels they've been defamed, their first question is 'how to get my name back,'" Miltenberg said. "I don't think that story is over yet for Keith."