DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Witnesses told police that a Michigan State University student whose jaw was broken at an off-campus party was slugged because he was repeatedly harassing women, not because he’s Jewish, according to a police report released Thursday after a prosecutor said no hate-crime charge would be filed.
Zach Tennen had claimed he was a victim of “religious hatred,” and his family rallied to his side as he recovered following the Aug. 26 incident at a home on Spartan Avenue in East Lansing. But others at the party offered a completely different version, telling police that Tennen, 19, had been drinking and wouldn’t keep his hands off women.
The man who delivered the punch said Tennen was “walking around to many girls at the party, rubbing up against them with his hands and asking them to hook up and kiss him,” according to a police report released to The Associated Press under a public records request.
Earlier Thursday, Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said he would not file a hate-crime charge or a separate charge related to the jaw-breaking punch. He declined to elaborate but said police “did an extraordinary job.”
Dunnings said the well-publicized incident, and Tennen’s provocative version of what happened, could make his job harder when someone else steps forward claiming to be a victim of racial or religious bigotry.
“In the event of an actual hate crime, it might place some skepticism in the minds of the public and potential jurors,” Dunnings told the AP.
Dunnings released a Sept. 24 letter from Henry Scharg, an attorney for Tennen’s family, who said police conducted a “full and fair investigation.”
“The Tennen family … believes that justice will be best served by closing this investigation at this time,” Scharg said.
A woman told police she got nervous and felt that Tennen was trying to “pin her down” against a car. Moments later, she saw him on the ground with the man who delivered the punch standing over him.
Without some kind of action, “something really bad could have happened to another girl at that party,” the woman told police.
In August, Michigan State officials responded as soon as the school heard about Tennen’s injuries and allegations of a hate crime. President Lou Anna Simon said two campus officials had urged his family to go to the police. At the time, she explained the school’s response in an open letter to the area Jewish community.
“Though the incident turned out not to be a hate crime – nor was it ever called that by the university – it was prudent for the university to reach out and engage in a conversation to assuage concerned members of our community,” university spokesman Kent Cassella said in an email Thursday.
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