Former football player Auston Robertson pled guilty to one count of assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration in Ingham County Circuit Court.
Judge Clinton Canady III sentenced Robertson to 43 - 120 months with credit of 247 days served. Robertson is also required to register as a sex offender.
Back on April 20, 2017, Robertson allegedly raped a 20-year-old woman in her apartment while his girlfriend waited in the car. When charges were brought the day after the incident, Robertson was kicked off the MSU football team.
The victim was present at the sentencing.
The victim wrote a statement and Ingham County Assistant Prosecutor Nicole Matusko read it to the court. The statement included the emotional toll this experience has taken and how for a long time the victim didn’t let herself believe it had happened. She said she felt betrayed by someone who she thought was her friend, who she thought of as a sibling, who should have protected her.
“You never really know much something impacts you until it’s over and you reflect on what you’ve gone through,” the victim wrote. “For awhile I felt bad for you. I thought by reporting this, I was ruining your life. I thought it was my fault this had happened. But, you did this to yourself. However, I was not aware that this had happened before. You put yourself in this situation. You ruined your life.”
Matusko asked the court to drop conversations about what the victim was wearing and how much she had to drink. Matusko said both parties had been drinking, but that is not the point and a serious change needs to happen in how society addresses sexual assault.
“We often hear cases like the one we hear today labeled as acquaintance rape, date rape, drunken mistakes, but in reality we need to start focusing and calling these cases what they truly are - rape,” Matusko said. “It was not her decisions that brought us to this point. It was the defendant's decision that night to rape that leads us to why we’re in court today.”
Echoing sentiments from the victim's statement, Matusko reminded the court of the betrayal of the assault happening at the hands of someone the victim knew.
“Auston Robertson chose the wrong woman. He thought he chose a friend, a woman he could silence. Rather, he chose a woman that is beautifully bold, brave and strong," she said. "A woman that has chosen to use her voice and stand up for herself and survivors. She will overcome what happened to her."
Robertson’s attorney David Rosenberg asked the court to see Robertson for who he truly is and look past his size.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to realize there are certain people who are evil, damaged and who have no viable contribution to society. Mr. Robertson is not one of those people," Rosenberg said. "Through it all he’s good-hearted. He knows right from wrong. He’s made poor choices.”
Robertson followed his attorney and quietly apologized to his family and the victim
Originally there were three charges, including two counts of third degree criminal sexual conduct. The prosecutor’s office dismissed the previous two charges as part of the plea.
Robertson was originally scheduled for trial on May 14 and allowed to attend Garden City Community College on bond to play football. However, he was arrested in Kansas on charges of aggravated robbery while armed with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, interfering with law and marijuana distribution. On April 19, Robertson’s bond was revoked due to violation of conditions that Robertson “refrain from criminal activity."
The prosecution brought up a pattern of criminal sexual conduct by Robertson and Judge Canady took past actions into consideration.
In May, Judge Canady approved admittance of previous incidents as evidence. In one incident admitted, Robertson allegedly tackled a woman and pulled down her pants. In the other incident, he grabbed a woman by her ankles, pulled her into a bathroom, pulled her pants down and forced her to sit on his lap. Months later, he engaged her in non-consensual sex and told her not to tell anyone. A partially admitted incident says Robertson berated a women over text for reporting that he had groped her.
“Hopefully Mr. Robertson can be rehabilitated, but a dangerous pattern has been established here," Judge Canady said.
This story has been updated with court comments.