Tuesday, June 18, 2024

MSU, Tucker to be sued by Brenda Tracy

March 7, 2024
Rape survivor and activist Branda Tracy at the Board of Trustees meeting in the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 27, 2023.
Rape survivor and activist Branda Tracy at the Board of Trustees meeting in the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 27, 2023.

Michigan State University and Mel Tucker are set to face a $75 million lawsuit from Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and advocate who the university found to have been sexually harassed by the disgraced former coach while consulting for his team.

Tracy filed intent-to-sue notices in Michigan’s Court of Claims Thursday, the first step in suing a government agency.

The letters allege that her reputation and future earnings were greatly hurt by Tucker’s conduct, his release of private text messages with her deceased friend, and an MSU leak that prompted her to come forward with her allegations publicly.

She’s seeking $50 million for herself and $25 million for her nonprofit, Set The Expectation. According to the intent to sue letter, the damages would cover post-traumatic stress, psychological damage,
damage to reputation and damage to future earning capabilities, among other things. 

MSU declined to comment on the pending litigation, a spokesperson said Thursday evening.

Tracy, who worked with Tucker's team in the past to teach them about healthy sexual conduct, alleged that during an April 2022 phone call, Tucker engaged in sexually explicit behavior and masturbated without her consent. 

Tracy later filed a formal complaint with MSU, which was investigated by the university’s Office of Institutional Equity. The university eventually found Tucker responsible for harassing and exploiting her. 

Tracy voluntarily shared documents pertaining to that investigation with USA Today while it was ongoing, but intended to wait for the investigation and hearing to be completed before coming out with her story. 

But, in September, Tracy instructed USA Today to publish their story, as she believed her name had been leaked to the media by someone at MSU, the publication reported.

The intent to sue letters say MSU failed to assure that Tracy's identity would remain confidential, and she was "subjected to the relentless bullying and threats" from the public as a result. 

In a draft statement obtained by The State News, Tracy said the person who leaked her identity was "associated with" MSU’s Board of Trustees. MSU ordered an independent investigation into that accusation, which eventually failed to find sufficient evidence to identify the leak.

One board member, Dennis Denno, refused to participate in that leak investigation. He was censured, stripped of his official duties, and referred to the governor’s office for removal Sunday night for unrelated misconduct revealed by a separate investigation.

Tracy's character and reputation have been publicly disparaged by current and former members of the Board of Trustees, the letters state. 

The notices also say MSU failed to properly investigate Tucker prior to his hiring, in addition to failing to "train, monitor, supervise, and discipline" him. 

Tucker was suspended and then fired by MSU in September, shortly after Tracy came forward in USA Today.

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