Mel Tucker made millions while he delayed the Michigan State sexual harassment case (USA Today)
In the absence of eyewitnesses or recordings, sexual misconduct cases often boil down to whose account is more credible. Tucker’s contradictory statements could sway the case in Tracy’s favor, said Ann Olivarius, a Title IX attorney who pioneered a landmark 1977 lawsuit that first established sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination under the law.
Tucker may avoid the hearing if he reaches a settlement with the school first, Olivarius said. But Michigan State should be “very cautious about offering him a payout,” given its history of mishandling sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar, the disgraced campus physician serving an effective life sentence in prison. Nassar is accused of sexually assaulting more than 300 women and girls under the guise of medical treatments.
“They should go after this guy,” Olivarius said. “I would never advise them, as counsel with expertise in this area, to pay him off at all. I’d say, ‘Bring it on. Sue us.’”
In Title IX cases, it is best practice to inform supervisors of accused employees about the existence of an investigation against them but to withhold the details, Olivarius said. Ideally, building a firewall between the Title IX office and an accused employee’s supervisors prevents them from tampering with the case.
Had the university suspended Tucker at the onset of the case, it would have drawn significant attention to the case that victims don’t always want. Olivarius, however, believes the school had cause to suspend him at the onset of the case, given that he had acknowledged masturbating on the call, and that Tracy’s business relationship with the school had been established.
“The central fact he has admitted to,” Olivarius said. “That’s as black and white as you can get.”