Judge dismisses federal lawsuit former Michigan State staffer filed against Mark Dantonio, others

The saga of Curtis Blackwell and former Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and other MSU leaders appears to have finally reached a conclusion. 

Blackwell, a one-time Michigan State football staff member, filed a federal wrongful termination lawsuit against former MSU head coach Mark Dantonio, former athletic director Mark Hollis and former president Lou Anna K. Simon back in November of 2018. 

On Wednesday, the suit was dismissed by U.S. District Court judge Janet Neff. In doing so, Neff approved a series of recommendations made by magistrate judge Sally Berens, who scolded Blackwell’s attorneys for using filings in the case to drum up media attention, including possible NCAA violations committed by Dantonio. Berens recommended the removal of Blackwell’s attorneys, an order Neff upheld.

From The Detroit News:

The order from Neff also upheld the removal of Blackwell’s attorneys, Thomas Warnicke and Andrew Paterson, and for sanctions to be paid by Warnicke and Paterson. Though the amount was not specified in Wednesday's ruling, Dantonio's attorneys argued in an April filing that if the case is dismissed, they should be awarded at least $214,153 in legal fees. They say the case has generated more than $300,000 in fees. Also in Wednesday's ruling, it stated Paterson has been referred to chief judge Robert Jonker to determine if he should face further discipline.

Blackwell, who served as MSU’s director of recruiting from 2013-17, claimed his rights were violated when his contract was not renewed in the aftermath of three MSU players being accused of sexual assault. Blackwell says he was used as a scapegoat while Dantonio said Blackwell was let go due to “philosophical” differences.

Michigan State football's Director of College Advancement and Performance and Camp Director Curtis Blackwell is seen, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

While his case against Dantonio, Hollis and Simon was thrown out, Blackwell’s lawsuit against two MSU Police detectives for wrongful arrest can proceed, the judge ruled. MSU Police claimed Blackwell obstructed the investigation into the three players in February 2017. Blackwell was first suspended by the school and then let go when his contract was allowed to expire in May 2017. Blackwell was never charged with any crime. 

Blackwell, who runs the Sound Mind Sound Body football camps in Detroit, will have to find new representation to proceed with his case against MSU Police. 

Dantonio abruptly retired on Feb. 4 after 13 seasons in East Lansing. When he stepped down, Dantonio said Blackwell’s lawsuit had “zero” impact on his decision to retire. 

MSU subsequently hired Mel Tucker from Colorado to replace Dantonio. 

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