Thursday, October 29, 2020

ESPN: Former men's basketball coach allegedly committed assault, rape

January 26, 2018
MSU senior guard Travis Walton and freshman forward Delvon Roe celebrate teammate, junior forward Jon Crandell’s first points of the game. The Spartans finished the night with a 75-47 victory over the Hoosiers, on February 7, 2009, at Breslin Center.
MSU senior guard Travis Walton and freshman forward Delvon Roe celebrate teammate, junior forward Jon Crandell’s first points of the game. The Spartans finished the night with a 75-47 victory over the Hoosiers, on February 7, 2009, at Breslin Center. —

Hours after MSU athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement on Friday, ESPN's 'Outside The Lines' released a report detailing the culture of sexual assaults occurring under the reign of current MSU athletics leadership.

The report states former MSU assistant basketball coach Travis Walton assaulted a female student and allegedly took part in the rape of another student, while little action was taken by head coach Tom Izzo or other high ranking officials.

According to the report:

On Jan. 16, 2010, Walton struck then-MSU junior Ashley Thompson at an East Lansing bar after the two got into a verbal altercation when he approached her and her friends' table.

After Thompson "told him to not-so-politely F-off" Walton struck her on the right side of her face. She told OTL she went to reach back toward him and "then that's when he swung with a second reach and hit me on the left side of my face and hit me so hard that it knocked me backwards off of my barstool," leaving her unconscious.

Thompson said by the time she regained consciousness, Walton was removed from the bar by a bouncer. Thompson, who sustained bruises and scrapes, made two trips to the hospital and was also diagnosed with a concussion, according to the report.

An arrest warrant was then issued for Walton for misdemeanor assault and battery. Walton pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Feb. 23, 2010. The presiding judge ruled Walton was "OK to travel with the MSU basketball team" while his case was pending.

Walton's assault and battery case was dismissed on April 21, 2010. According to the report, Walton instead pleaded guilty to a civil infraction for littering.

David Meyers, the former assistant East Lansing attorney who handled the case, told OTL he agreed to the plea deal after Walton's defense attorney provided witness statements that contradicted Thompson's version of events.

Thompson told OTL someone in the city attorney's office told her not to talk to the media or anyone at MSU about the incident. As a result, she never reported it to university officials. 

Within that month, OTL reports, Walton's name emerged in an allegation that he and two basketball players — who played for him in the NCAA Tournament when he was a coach — were involved in a sexual assault report made by the women and her parents to the athletic department.

OTL reports the woman did not take the incident to police, but told counselors and then-MSU athletic director Mark Hollis she had been raped by Walton and the players.

According to records obtained by OTL, the alleged rape occurred in April 2010. The record states the woman and her parents decided to report the incident to Hollis because the woman had become concerned after "hearing that the same men attempted an assault on another student co-worker in a similar manner."

Hollis expressed his own concern about what happened in a letter. That letter also states Hollis would "conduct his own investigation."

When Hollis resigned on Friday, he said, "as an AD, you learn quickly don't investigate, don't prosecute and don't judge."

According to the record, the woman's parents met with Hollis and associate athletic director Alan Haller several weeks later, who told them the basketball team, including the coaching staff, were told of the incident. 

According to the letter, "none of the players were reprimanded in any way. The victim and her mother were told that there's not much that can be done to the players."

The record states Walton was fired. In an interview with OTL, the company that provided the record said, "little action was taken in regard to the players, and the report stayed within the athletic department, not to be investigated by anyone who handled student conduct or judicial affairs issues."

OTL reported Walton seemed "surprised" by the rape allegation when they asked him for comment about it, and said he didn't recall anything from it. 

Walton told OTL he left MSU in the fall of 2010 to pursue a professional basketball career in Europe. 

Walton played for MSU from 2005-09 and won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in his last season with the Spartans. He is currently an assistant coach with the Agua Caliente Clippers of the NBA G League in Ontario, California.

MSU is scheduled to host Wisconsin at 8 p.m. Friday night at the Breslin Center.

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