Dan Murphy, ESPN Staff Writer
LANSING, Mich. — Three former Michigan State football players convicted of seduction charges were sentenced to three years of probation Wednesday morning and will undergo sexual offender treatment during that time.
Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance all said they had learned valuable life lessons from the past 18 months in the legal process, but they said a young woman’s assertion that the three of them raped her in the bathroom of an on-campus apartment in January 2017 was not true. All three pleaded guilty to felony seduction charges in April in exchange for prosecutors dropping more significant criminal sexual conduct charges.
The woman involved in the incident submitted a statement to the court Wednesday that said she agreed to the plea deal for the sake of her mental health. Her attorney, Karen Truszkowski, read the plea and later said her client is now handling the counseling process for her post-traumatic stress well.
“I became terrified to sleep because of persistent nightmares,” the woman said in her statement. “I clenched my jaw so hard in my sleep that I ruined my retainer in well under a year. … Unfortunately, this plea has allowed all three defendants to avoid admitting what really happened that night. It’s heartbreaking to admit that I have zero confidence that a significant level of deterrence will come out of this.”
The woman told police last year that King pulled her into a bathroom during a party, assaulted her and then invited Corley and Vance into the room, where they forced her to perform oral sex. An attorney representing Vance refuted the claim that anyone pulled the woman into the bathroom, and all three former players said the sex they had with the young woman was consensual.
Prosecutors originally charged King with first-degree criminal sexual conduct — a crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. They charged Corley and Vance with third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
King, Corley and Vance admitted in April that they seduced the woman into oral sex at the party. Prosecutor Steve Kwasnik said law enforcement officials were able to recover one Snapchat video recorded during the encounter. King admitted that he recorded the video and pleaded guilty to a felony charge of surveilling an unclothed person.
“I understand that the actions I did back then were stupid and childish,” King said. “I am very wrong for sending out a video of the actions. Things like that should be kept private. I admit wrongdoing in that sense.”
King and Corley both admitted to doing wrong and behaving immaturely while maintaining that they did not rape the woman. Vance’s attorney, Mary Chartier, said it was important that her client and the other two men should not be labeled rapists. Vance, when asked directly by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina if he thought he did anything wrong, said, “No, your honor.” He said he learned valuable lessons about being careful with the choices he makes.
The seduction charge is a felony last updated by state legislators in 1931. It makes it illegal for men to “seduce and debauch an unmarried woman.” A seduction charge does not imply that the act was non-consensual. Prosecutors said in April that they “consistently, but infrequently” use the “antiquated” law to compel a plea without forcing the defendant to register as a sex offender.
All three former players were also entered into a diversionary program for young offenders that will give them a clean record if they make it through their probationary period without any further incidents.
Truszkowski, the woman’s attorney, said the sentencing was the best outcome they could have hoped for in this circumstance.
Kwasnik told the court that his office believed the plea deal was “the most just outcome that was attainable” and that accepting the deal did not mean the prosecutors felt the woman’s account of what happened was untrue. He said his office was troubled that all three defendants lied to and misled police when they were first interviewed and appalled at the entitlement and self-importance they displayed on the night of the incident.
“They seem to be at best oblivious to the idea that a young woman at a party would not be interested in engaging in sexual acts and at worst completely unmoved that she was not,” Kwasnik said. “And for the record, she was not.”
Judge Aquilina chided the former players for being self-absorbed and harming the woman. She took exception with Vance and Chartier specifically for not taking more responsibility for doing wrong.
“Your statement is lacking any accountability on behalf of your client and continues to victimize the victim,” Aquilina said. “It is disturbing to me.”
Aquilina is the same Ingham County judge who sentenced former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar to up to 175 years in prison earlier this year. Aquilina received widespread praise for the support and encouragement she showed survivors of sexual abuse during Nassar’s weeklong sentencing hearing in January. She had the option to sentence the three men to up to five years in prison for the seduction charges, but if she applied any jail time, all three would have been able to withdraw their guilty pleas and go to trial.
The parents of the young woman also provided a statement to the court in which they said they didn’t feel justice was achieved with this plea deal. The statement said that the three men “overpowered and raped a defenseless girl half their size while they had her trapped in a bathroom.” It said that the family didn’t think this sentence would help prevent similar crimes from happening in the future.
“It turns out there are many forces at work, and neither of those things will happen as a result of this case,” her parents said. “This case represents everything that is wrong at Michigan State University, especially in the athletic department.”
Four former Michigan State football players — including King, Corley and Vance — were dismissed from the team after being accused of sexual misconduct in 2017. Classmate Auston Robertson, who is awaiting trial on first-degree criminal sexual misconduct charges, was the fourth player removed from the team.
The university is currently a defendant in multiple lawsuits that allege Michigan State has mishandled sexual assault complaints lodged against student-athletes. The school also recently agreed to pay $500 million to settle hundreds of lawsuits connected to the abuse by Nassar — a doctor who worked with the athletic programs on campus and admitted to assaulting his patients when they came to see him for treatment.
Michigan State suspended King, Corley and Vance from the football team in February 2017, shortly after police made the team aware that they were being investigated. Football coach Mark Dantonio dismissed them from the team last June when they were formally charged, and the school expelled them last July after finding in a Title IX hearing that they had violated the school’s relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy.
Corley and Vance attended Coahoma Community College in Mississippi during the past academic year. King plans to join them at the same school this summer. The athletes indicated in court that they hope to continue their football careers there.