LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A retired Michigan State University professor who admitted to sexually touching a subordinate employee without consent nearly 20 years ago pleaded guilty to a sexual assault charge.
Former MSU professor Robert Pittman on Wednesday pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for assaulting Vance Kincaid in 1999 just before Pittman retired and moved to California.
“I believed that a co-worker of mine was willing for me to approach him and to allow his pants to be unzipped and his penis briefly touched in a sexual way,” Pittman said during his plea hearing Wednesday. “I now realize I was mistaken and that it was not consensual.”
The Associated Press doesn’t identify victims of sexual assault, but Kincaid has spoken out publicly.
Kincaid testified in court last year that between 1997 and 1999, Pittman, his supervisor at the time, invaded his personal space and experienced unwanted touching that became more persistent, the Lansing State Journal reported.
In June 1999, Kincaid was working alone in an office when Pittman grabbed the back of his head with both hands and kissed him, placing Pittman’s tongue inside his mouth, according to Kincaid’s testimony. Pittman unzipped Kincaid’s pants despite attempts to push him away, Kincaid said. Pittman proceeded to put his hand down Kincaid’s pants and touched his genitals, Kincaid testified.
A key evidence in the case was a confession from Pittman during a phone call Kincaid made while an MSU police detective was present. Pittman said it was during that call that he realized his contact with Kincaid was not consensual and acknowledged he didn’t ask for consent.
The retired professor faces up to two years in prison for the fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge, which is a high court misdemeanor. Initially, though, he faced up to 15 years, but prosecutors opted to dismiss a felony charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a misdemeanor assault and battery charge.
Pittman’s sentencing is scheduled for April 8.
After Wednesday’s hearing, Kincaid said MSU’s response to the case has been more stressful than the legal process itself, calling human resources “purveyors of institutional protection.”
“The university continues to put me through the wringer,” Kincaid said. “They’re treating my advocacy as being unprofessional.”
MSU didn’t immediately respond to The Associated Press’ request for comment Thursday.