Paula Lavigne, ESPN Staff Writer
Former Michigan State football player Keith Mumphery has filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the school alleging it violated his due process rights during a 2016 Title IX investigation that found him responsible for sexual misconduct and resulted in his permanent removal from the university and a temporary ban from campus.
Mumphery, a receiver, had been drafted by the Houston Texans in 2015, and was gone from MSU long before the March 2016 Title IX ruling, which was a reversal of an earlier finding that he had not violated school policy despite a female student’s report that he had he sexually assaulted her. Neither the alleged incident nor the school’s actions had been publicly reported until they appeared in a Detroit Free Press article in May 2017; two days later the Texans terminated Mumphery’s contract and cut him from the team.
Since then, Mumphery “has been unable to find a job in the NFL because of the defendants’ actions and Michigan State’s wrongful findings,” the lawsuit states, and he has been prevented from being able to complete a graduate degree in communications, leaving him without other job prospects.
The lawsuit alleges that MSU did not give him proper notice of the appeal proceedings. It also states that the university reversed its findings based on flawed and contradictory evidence in an unfair process that was biased against males.
Spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant said late Tuesday that MSU did not have any comment on the lawsuit.
MSU already is facing a Title IX lawsuit related to this case, filed by the former female student who reported that Mumphery sexually assaulted her. In the woman’s lawsuit, filed in November 2017, she alleges that MSU failed to provide her with counseling and academic support and did not uphold the provision banning Mumphery from campus.
Both lawsuits stem from the woman’s report that Mumphery, who played for MSU from 2010 to ’14, sexually assaulted her in her dorm room on March 17, 2015. In the police reports, lawsuits and Title IX investigation documents, the woman and Mumphery tell two different stories. They agree that the woman invited him to her room, but the woman stated that she was intoxicated and tried to resist Mumphery’s advances, even to the point of having to push his penis away multiple times and shove him off her.
Mumphery said the woman, whom he told police had appeared sober, willingly engaged in sexual contact and was the one trying to initiate vaginal sex, but that she got angry when he insisted on wearing a condom. Her lawsuit states that she “just wanted to hang out but Mumphery wanted sex, and that Mumphery called her a “dumb white girl” and a “tease” and then left. His lawsuit states that the woman, while arguing with Mumphery before he left, said, “Athletes think they can have everything that way.”
When MSU Title IX investigators asked him about the encounter, his lawsuit states that he told them, “When you’re a star athlete, chicks come for you from all directions. My sister got a baby and I don’t have sex without a condom.”
On March 18, 2015, the woman reported the alleged incident to Michigan State University campus police. Police investigated her claim, but the Ingham County prosecutor’s office decided not to bring charges against Mumphery, citing a lack of evidence and saying prosecutors were unable to get in contact with Mumphery’s accuser.
Her report that same day to the MSU office that handles sexual violence complaints resulted in a six-month Title IX investigation that determined in September 2015 that Mumphery had not violated the school’s relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy. The woman appealed the school’s finding in October 2015.
The lawsuit alleges that the school took advantage of Mumphery’s absence and ignored the earlier findings in order to “appease” the woman, “who was still a first-year student,” and it states that the “easiest way to accomplish this was to ignore the due process rights” of Mumphery “by repeatedly and systematically failing to give him notice of the appeal and subsequent renewed investigation.”
The lawsuit states that on Nov. 11, 2015, MSU sent an email to Mumphery’s MSU email account and a Yahoo! account, notifying him of an upcoming hearing on the appeal. But the email was undeliverable to the MSU account because it was full, and the Yahoo! account was not monitored, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit also states that Mumphery did not receive multiple letters MSU sent to the parties involved in the case that included details of hearings, decisions and opportunities to challenge or appeal. As a result, the lawsuit states he was not aware of his opportunity to review or respond to the revised investigation report or appeal findings.
On March 21, 2016, the Title IX investigator issued her report, which stated that Mumphery had violated university policy by sexually assaulting the woman. The revised finding included an interview with the nurse who performed the woman’s sexual assault exam — who wasn’t interviewed during the initial investigation. He noted there was an abrasion on her hymen and scratches on her body, “which may ‘indicate the possibility of her resisting,'” the lawsuit states, although he could not conclude if an assault had occurred.
Among the letters the lawsuit states Mumphery did not receive was dated June 7, 2016, and from Denise Maybank, vice president of student affairs and services. The lawsuit states it was “allegedly sent” to an address in Georgia and to Mumphery’s MSU email account, informing him that he had been dismissed from the university and prohibited on campus until the beginning of 2019, risking arrest if he came there without permission.
The lawsuit states that MSU failed to follow up with Mumphery when he did not appear at any of the proceedings even though the university, through the athletic department, had ways to contact him. The lawsuit does not state exactly when Mumphery became aware of the ruling and the sanctions against him.
Attorneys for Mumphery did not immediately respond to emails sent late Tuesday. But the lawsuit states that he “obeyed all institutional rules when he was wrongly barred from campus.”
In the lawsuit filed last fall by the woman, she alleges that the university did not enforce the ban, noting 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. It states that during that weekend, “[the woman] was terrified when her friends notified her that Mumphrey had been spotted on campus and around East Lansing.”
Mumphery’s lawsuit also states that the revised investigation was flawed because it ignored inconsistencies in the woman’s statements, it relied on the woman’s statements to her friends after the incident as corroboration to what happened, and it disregarded a statement by Mumphery’s friend.
MSU subjected Mumphery “to an insufficient process when they failed to provide Plaintiff with notice of the proceedings against him as well as a fair and reasonable opportunity to defend himself; and arrived at a predetermined, arbitrary and unwarranted decision tainted by gender bias,” the lawsuit states. “As a result, Defendants failed to provide Plaintiff with the basic due process protections that they are required to provide students accused of sexual misconduct at a state school.”