Whether he wanted to admit it or not, Mark Dantonio’s surprise Signing Day Eve retirement came under the specter of suspicion. The longtime Michigan State head coach had been deposed in a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former recruiting coordinator Curtis Blackwell, and it appeared Blackwell had receipts.
However, that cloud could be on its way to fading out of view after a federal judge has recommended dismissing the case against Dantonio and his former employer.
A filing Friday obtained by the Detroit News, U.S. magistrate judge Sally J. Berens has said Blackwell’s attorneys have “repeatedly misused court process” and their “inappropriate conduct has marred the history of this case.”
Berens said that conduct has harassed Dantonio as well as fellow defendants in former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and former MSU AD Mark Hollis.
Berens made the motion not on the merits of Blackwell’s case, but on the conduct of his attorneys, particularly Drew Paterson. “Attorney Paterson signs the ethically problematic filings, and Attorney Warnicke and Plaintiff Blackwell avert their eyes and reap the benefits,” Berens wrote.
Paterson was fined $10,000 for filing a sealed document, and was reprimanded by Berens for publicly filing the documents that attempted to out Dantonio for committing an NCAA violation for bringing Blackwell along for an off-campus recruiting visit, which could constitute an NCAA violation.
“Instead of using the discovery process to gather evidence to support the two claims alleged in this case, Plaintiff Blackwell’s attorneys have repeatedly misused court process to elicit information unrelated to his case and then have publicly filed that information, at least once in violation of a court order,” Berens wrote.
Berens wrote that Blackwell’s attorneys should be removed from the case, but the magistrate acknowledged his wrongful arrest case against two MSU police officers should continue.
That angle is here nor there for Dantonio, who simply wishes to move into retirement with his legacy intact.
“I think the opinion speaks for itself,” Thomas Kienbaum, an attorney for Dantonio and the defense, told the paper.
After Berens’ motion to dismiss, the case will now go to a federal judge, and legal precedent implies the judge will more than likely grant the motion to dismiss.