GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A federal judge left the possibility open that Chad Curtis might face his victims as he prepares to defend himself against a lawsuit levied against him.
A former major-league baseball player, Curtis was convicted of several counts of criminal sexual conduct after he inappropriately touched several female students while working as a volunteer in the athletic department of the Lakewood Public Schools in Barry County. Curtis maintains his innocence.
Victims in his case have now filed a federal lawsuit against Curtis and Lakewood Schools. Most of the victims are listed in the suit using their initials or a pseudonym.
In federal court Monday, Curtis asked Magistrate Judge Ellen Carmody to force the victims to use their real names in the suit. Curtis also argued against a request form the plaintiff’s attorneys to restrict him from questioning the victims directly as he has opted to represent himself and continue through the proceedings without an attorney.
Carmody ruled against the request to force the victims to reveal their identities in the suit. Because Curtis knows who the victims are and is aware of the allegations against him, Carmody said she did not believe his ability to prepare a defense was hampered by the victims’ anonymity in the filing.
“For right now, I don’t see anything to be gained by changing the pseudonym status,” Carmody said. “I also am very much in favor of an open court system but we historically have protected the identity of minor victims…”
Curtis also argued that because the victims are now adults, they should not be afforded this type of protection.
“They are not minors anymore but they’re still very young women,” Carmody said.
But Carmody’s ruling was less definitive when it comes to whether Curtis will be able to question his victims directly during depositions in the case.
Carmody said she planned to allow Curtis to listen in on the depositions as the plaintiffs and Lakewood Schools’ attorneys question the victims, among others. Carmody said she would attend the depositions to help conduct them.
Once the attorneys are finished, she said she would then excuse the victims and discuss with Curtis what questions he has. At that time, she said, she would decide whether to let Curtis ask the questions himself or if she would ask the questions that she deems appropriate.
“I’m going to control how that happens,” Carmody said.
Curtis appeared at Monday’s hearing via video feed wearing his blue and orange prison-issued clothing. He sat in a room with brick walls seated next to a large pile of documents that he says he’s gathered to prepare his defense.
Curtis scoffed at the fact that he is being required to attend the hearings via video feed, further aggravated by the fact that the plaintiff’s attorneys requested that he not be visible to the victims when they come for depositions.
The judge didn’t rule on whether that would actually happen but Curtis opposed the idea.
“This format is not conducive to me really being able to represent myself,” Curtis said. “These girls have shown no trauma from me…”
“There’s tons of case law that talks about how it’s harder to lie to a person’s face,” Curtis said.
Throughout the proceeding, it was clear that Curtis has been studying the law. He made frequent references to what has happened in historical cases that he thought helped to bolster his arguments.
Carmody also addressed the fact that Curtis is representing himself and discouraged him from continuing this way.
“It’s just a very difficult proposition,” Carmody said.
“I don’t have any money and I don’t want to take my wife’s and my kids’ [money],” Curtis told the court. “I don’t want to see food taken off of my kids’ plate.”
Curtis said his victims are lying and that he plans to prove it. He says they’re after financial gain.
“At the end of this trial is a possible monetary windfall… that is their agenda. They want to obtain money,” he said.
Depositions in the case are slated to happen toward the end of the year.
If the case makes it to trial, that won’t likely happen until the spring of 2016 at the earliest.