Auston Robertson to face trial on two sexual assault charges

MASON, MICH. - Former MSU football player Auston Robertson will face trial on two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The decision was made by 55th District Court Judge Thomas Boyd after a preliminary hearing held Thursday. Robertson had been originally charged with a single count but prosecutors requested a second based on the victim's testimony during the hearing.

Robertson, 19, is accused of of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old woman on April 9 in her apartment in Meridian Township, near East Lansing. Third-degree criminal sexual conduct carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison upon conviction.

Robertson's accuser, a Michigan State University student, said Robertson walked her up to her second-floor apartment and when she entered, he followed her inside to her bedroom.

The State Journal is not naming the woman due to the nature of the alleged crime.

"Auston walked in and closed the door," she said. "He started kissing me and trying to get my pants down."

"I'm trying to push him off of me but as I'm doing that he's trying to turn me around," she said.

"His hands went into my pants," she said, and his finger went inside her.

"Where?" asked Nicole Matusko, an Ingham County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.

"My vagina," the woman responded.

She said Robertson then forced her onto her bed and raped her. Afterward, the woman told Robertson to "get out," she said. 

David Rosenberg, one of Robertson's attorneys, asked the woman why she told her boyfriend and mother about the incident instead of police.

The woman was "in shock," she said, and "wasn't sure if (she) wanted to report this or not."

The woman said her boyfriend, who is an MSU football player, told his coach about the incident. The coach, whom the woman did not identify, notified law enforcement, she said.

After Boyd announced his decision to bind Robertson over, Brent Leder, Robertson's other attorney, asked the judge to remove the requirement that Robertson wear a GPS tether while he is free on bond.

Robertson hopes to attend classes at a community college in Mississippi starting next week, Leder said.

The tether would be "an extreme hindrance in the pursuit of athletics," he said, noting Robertson hopes to play football at the school.

Boyd declined, saying he'll leave the decision up to a Circuit Court judge. Robertson's Circuit Court arraignment is set for July 5 in Lansing.

Rosenberg said after the hearing that Judge Boyd made the right decision to bind the case over for trial but maintained his client's innocence and said it's a "weak case."

"They're claiming lack of consent," he said. "It's obvious to me that's just not a truism."

Rosenberg also said his defense of Robertson has been hindered by the fact that he doesn't have any audio of the victim's initial interview with a Meridian Township detective.

"It's on video as required by statute, but the audio didn't come out," he said. "So all I'm left with is a recitation from the police officers as to what this young lady has said, not her actual words."

Rosenberg went on to note he has "no reason to disbelieve" the detective's explanation that there was a technical malfunction.

Rosenberg also raised the question of whether the accusation against Robertson is related to another incident in which three former teammates are accused of sexually assaulting a different woman in January. Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance were arraigned earlier this month and their cases are pending in East Lansing's 54B District Court.

"I'm not necessarily a conspiracy theorist," he said. "There's a whole lot more going on here than meets the eye. A whole lot going on here."

"This incident occurred with these other fellas in January," he said. "My client reported that event, according to (MSU Trustee Mitch Lyons). He outs Mr. Roberson as the person who reports this to coach. A few days later my client gets arrested for sexual assault. The crime seems a little convenient."

Rosenberg's characterization of the timeline, does not match dates previously made public.

The January incident was reported to head coach Mark Dantonio on Jan. 16, according to an external report by the Jones Day law firm that was commissioned by the university. That report did not name the player. Jones Day also examined football staff's response to the April 9 incident, which it says was reported to Dantonio on April 9 in a telephone call from a football player who also is not named in the report. 

The Jones Day report was made public June 5. Trustee Lyons, who has since said he "deeply regrets" naming Robertson as the player who reported the incident, initially made those remarks in a radio interview on June 6.

Robertson was arrested April 23, in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The two Ingham County charges are the second serious allegation levied against Robertson.

He was arrested in January 2016 on a misdemeanor battery charge stemming from an October 2015 incident at his high school, Wayne High. Robertson was accused of improperly touching a female classmate, according to Allen Superior Court 4 records. 

Those charges were cleared from his record March 22 after he fulfilled the terms of his diversionary program, according to court records. 

MSU head coach Mark Dantonio removed Robertson from the team April 9, the same day charges in the latest incident were announced.

"Sexual assault has no place in our community," Dantonio said in a statement. "While there is an ongoing criminal process, we’re extremely disappointed that Auston put himself in this position."

Contact Christopher Haxel at 517-377-1261 or chaxel@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisHaxel.

© 2017 Lansing State Journal


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