On Friday, Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings released a fairly emphatic statement on the recent sexual assault allegations. Spartan Nation has the whole statement posted; I'll excerpt the most important portion here:
Based on our review of all of the materials, including the police report, actual interviews, and the specific details that were elicited directly from the Complainant, our office reached the conclusion that no crime had been committed. We therefore made the decision to decline to bring charges against the two young men.
Bolded emphasis mine. Dunnings apparently attached a copy of the police interview with one of the players to his press release. (I can't find a copy of this online; if someone could point me to one, I'd appreciate it.) That strikes me as a highly uncommon gesture by a person who really feels under fire, rightly or wrongly.
The "no crime had been committed" line is obviously key, as there's a huge difference between declining to prosecute because of a lack of hard evidence (e.g., a Roethlisberger-type situation), and an outright assertion that no prosecutable offense occurred. The lack of equivocation is, to me, remarkable. If Dunnings is willing to use such strong exonerating language in a press release he knew would receive wide public distribution, quite frankly, I'm willing to give his decision the benefit of the doubt, and consider this situation over.
Much more, after the jump.
Nonetheless, having re-read the original Michigan Messenger article, I still don't think that it was irresponsible reporting. The partially-redacted original police report -- still available for your perusal here -- is quite explosive, and I don't believe it was wrong for the author to question why the case wasn't prosecuted. Given that it was the only source material available at the time, I don't think that that the story was enormously one-sided. Some of their phrasing -- "the police report and statements by the victim suggest otherwise," in particular -- was a little weaselly, but not unforgivably out of line. There's room for criticism of the reporting, but I do believe much of the vitriol directed at the Michigan Messenger and its writers was of the "shoot the messenger" variety, and I'm not a fan of that, obviously.
In any event, this wasn't a pleasant subject to arise, but at least the two players involved can now point to a public exoneration instead of being dogged by rumors for the duration of their careers. Small consolation, perhaps, but you can't reassemble shattered glass.
Finally, a few words about this site's coverage of the event. In my original article, I tried to qualify my statements on the matter with "allegedly" and similar modifiers; in the one case where I originally failed to include one where it was needed, I edited the original copy. While I'm sure that my revulsion at the alleged conduct shined through to some degree, I stand by the original post as written. However, I do owe a mea culpa for my final comment (in response to SpartanBill) before we closed the thread:
It doesn't imply that the players are guilty.
Guilty is a determination made by a jury. They aren’t being prosecuted, so they won’t be guilty. But no conviction is necessary for there to be a victim — and given that at least one player here essentially admitted that non-consensual contact occurred, there absolutely is a victim in this case.
Dunnings' statement clarifies that the player did not absolutely corroborate the victim's statement; thus, my conclusion that there was a victim here was premature. Quite honestly, by that point I was becoming frustrated by the tenor of the comments (and the year of MSU athlete indiscretions), and that frustration probably resulted in my own impetuousness. That's entirely my fault.
Additionally, we do wish to clarify why we closed the comments on the original post. As I wrote immediately before closing the comments, KJ and I both needed to step away from the computer for a while, and Pete wasn't available at the time. Given that 1) emotions were running high, and 2) we were concerned about the names of the players and/or victim being revealed, we simply weren't comfortable with allowing the comments to go forward unmoderated. I considered re-opening the comments later in the evening, but ultimately decided that it wouldn't be particularly productive. Earlier in the day, we banned a commenter who had made particularly vile comments about the situation; it was the first time in the history of the site we banned a commenter, and basically, once bitten, twice shy. Later, we closed the comments on two reasonable and appropriate FanPosts -- one by Loneytunes and the other by Seer -- for the same reasons.
We remain extremely thankful for the comments we receive at this site; without each of you, there'd be little motivation to spend as much time and effort on this as we do. And, in nearly all circumstances we appreciate all of your feedback, both positive and negative. This story was difficult both for us as site managers, and of course for all MSU fans. It's never a comfortable situation when unpleasant events from the real world intrude into the realm of sports fandom, and this was an extreme example of that.
At this point, we're happy to have official closure on the issue. Once again, the comments are open. We appreciate your feedback, and we certainly hope this is the last time we'll have to discuss this ugly episode on the site. Thanks again.