Ex-attorney: Michigan State's Travis Walton wasn't shown favoritism
A former East Lansing legal representative issued a statement Sunday morning about his handling of a case involving former Michigan State basketball player Travis Walton.
David Meyers, who was an assistant city attorney from 2006-16, called an ESPN report about his role in Walton’s 2010 assault and battery case “false allegations and misleading insinuations.” And later on Sunday, the ESPN reporter behind the story fired back.
Walton had an assault and battery case in East Lansing 54B District Court that was reduced to a littering fine, according to court documents. ESPN interviewed the alleged victim in that case, Ashley Thompson. The alleged incident occurred at Dublin Square bar in East Lansing on Jan. 16, 2010, and the plea agreement was reached April 21, 2010, according to court records.
“The case was fully reviewed and a determination was made that while the case wouldn’t be fully dismissed, a plea offer would be made,” Meyers wrote. “Unlike a county prosecutor, city attorneys can only charge 90 day misdemeanors which are the lowest level charge that are still criminal, and due to that, most plea offers result in some type of civil infraction, typically a litter. …
“At no point in my role as Asst. City Attorney did Travis Walton or any other person receive preferential treatment from me as to their criminal proceedings. East Lansing City prosecutions had previously been cleared of preferential treatment in a 2015 article by ESPN and (investigative reporter Paula Lavigne).”
Meyers, who received his juris doctorate from MSU College of Law in 2005 and his undergraduate degree from Loyola University in Chicago, denied he spoke to MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo, football coach Mark Dantonio or anyone in the university’s administration about their players’ legal issues.
“In fact,” Meyers wrote, “at no point in my life have I spoken to Tom Izzo or Mark Dantonio.”
Walton, 30, denied the assault and battery allegations in a statement issued Tuesday.
“I never physically assaulted a woman at an East Lansing establishment, as alleged,” he wrote. “While conversing with her, and without notice or provocation, she threw a drink at me, and I subsequently left the establishment. Two written statements from independent, objective witnesses were given to the City Attorney, and support my innocence. Ultimately, the determination to resolve the case was based on the merits of the investigation.”
The ESPN story that ran Jan. 26 also accused Walton and two other unnamed players from MSU’s Final Four team in 2010 of committing a sexual assault that April. Walton denied those allegations but admitted he knew the unnamed woman and had a relationship with her.
Walton, who played for MSU from 2005-09, was an undergraduate student assistant for Izzo in early 2010. He was placed on leave from his coaching position with the Los Angeles Clippers’ Gatorade League affiliate in Ontario, Calif., after ESPN’s story was published.
Lavigne defended ESPN's reporting on Sunday in a three-part Twitter post.
Here is Meyers' full statement:
“I am submitting this statement to clarify and respond to the false allegations and misleading insinuations that were made relating to my role as the Asst. City Attorney for East Lansing as it relates to a 2010 criminal prosecution of Travis Walton. I have not been privy to any reports on this matter since 2010 and the statements made herein are only those which I know to be accurate, as opposed to putting forth anything based upon speculation and assumptions.
“I had always been of the mindset that my position was in service to the public and warranted transparency, so when Paula Lavigne of ESPN contacted me last year, I spoke to her about what I could recall from a case which was resolved almost 8 years prior.
“I can affirm that I did review the initial report, took the allegations of the accusing witness seriously and recommended criminal assault charges be issued. The defense counsel did produce at least two independent witness statements that directly contradicted the allegations made by the accuser; however at this time, I do not recall the exact details of those statements. I do not recall any other evidence other than witness statements.
“The case was fully reviewed and a determination was made that while the case wouldn’t be fully dismissed, a plea offer would be made. Unlike a county prosecutor, city attorneys can only charge 90 day misdemeanors which are the lowest level charge that are still criminal, and due to that, most pleas offers result in some type of civil infraction, typically a litter.
“I can affirm that the plea offer was approved by my supervising attorney and was within our normal guidelines. The actual plea offer, similar to many offered in thousands of cases I was involved with, was to reduce the criminal charge to a civil infraction with a condition that the defendant not be charged with any new charges for a subsequent 6 month period. The offer was accepted by the defendant.
“If I had not taken the accuser and her accusations seriously, I would not have recommended the original charges at the outset and subsequently, I would have just dismissed the charges without mandating some type of plea agreement. Any decision made on this case, and all the cases I was involved with, were made based upon the legalities of the case and that is it. Despite that, these were difficult decisions and I was fully aware that the decisions made by the City Attorney’s office affected both sides.
“At no point in my role as Asst. City Attorney did Travis Walton or any other person receive preferential treatment from me as to their criminal proceedings. East Lansing City prosecutions had previously been cleared of preferential treatment in a 2015 article by ESPN and Ms. Levine [sic].
“At no point in my career have I ever spoken to administration from MSU, Tom Izzo, Mark Dantonio, or their staff regarding any of the criminal cases which I prosecuted. In fact, at no point in my life have I spoken to Tom Izzo or Mark Dantonio.
“At no point have I ever told an accusing witness in any case I’ve prosecuted not to discuss their case with anyone. All the cases I was involved with were public record already.
“I chose to leave East Lansing and my role as the Asst. City Attorney, on good terms, due in large part to ongoing health concerns of my family for which I felt obligated to support. I love the community, the students and the people I worked with in East Lansing, I believe I had a reputation of integrity in my position there and thought I may one day return. This one article, without actual evidence of any wrongdoing on my part, has severely and unfairly tarnished my nearly 12 years of service to East Lansing and my reputation as a whole.
“As a human and a father, my heart goes out to everyone that has been hurt in events that have came to light recently, however, the repercussions of the false allegations and misleading insinuations of the ESPN article regarding a completely unrelated incident and my involvement has been devastating to myself and my family."
Contact Chris Solari: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Download our Spartans Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!