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Posted on Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:32 a.m.

Former Wolverines walk-on acquitted of felony assault, convicted of misdemeanor

By Art Aisner

A Washtenaw County jury acquitted former University of Michigan football walk-on Michael Milano Thursday of felony assault charges in an on-campus incident that seriously injured a U-M hockey player last year.

But jurors convicted Milano, 23, of aggravated assault in the Oct. 12, 2008, attack on Steven Kampfer as the two men walked home from a bar in separate groups near the East Quad residence hall.


Michael Milano

Milano faces up to one year in jail on the misdemeanor conviction when he is sentenced Dec. 3.

But that doesn't appear likely, given a rare statement by Circuit Judge David Swartz, who said he believes Milano is innocent of both counts.

After dismissing the jury, Swartz looked toward Milano and said: “For what it’s worth, I’d find the defendant not guilty and recommend that you file for an order to have it expunged, which I’ll be pleased to sign.”

The statement appeared to surprise the few people remaining in the courtroom just before 5 p.m.

The verdict concluded a four-day trial that focused on testimony from 18 witnesses. Among them were multiple eyewitnesses, former Wolverines head football coach Lloyd Carr and U-M wrestling coach Joe McFarland, who testified on Milano’s behalf.

Prosecutors accused Milano, a former member of U-M’s wrestling team, of attacking Kampfer from behind after a heated argument. Witnesses said they saw Milano lift Kampfer above his waist and drop him over his shoulder.

Kampfer, a budding star defenseman from Jackson, was later injured in a controversial on-ice incident with Michigan State University players that gained national attention and led to suspensions. Serious head and neck injuries after the confrontation with Milano prevented him from playing for more than two months, and Kampfer was injured on the ice soon after he returned.

Now a senior, Kampfer testified he didn’t remember much about the actual assault and had been drinking in celebration of season opening wins. He said he went to a downtown bar to meet his ex-girlfriend after 2 a.m., and they argued. He said he grabbed her wrist to keep her from walking away, but was not threatening.


Steven Kampfer

Milano, who also took the stand on the trial’s final day of testimony, said he confronted Kampfer for being rough with the woman, who he had been socializing with at the bar.

Their argument escalated. But Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Paul Barnett emphasized it appeared to be over when Kampfer turned to say a final word that set Milano off.

Carr testified that was out of character for Milano, who was aggressive on the field and in practice, as required, but never off the field.

McFarland testified the move Milano executed in lifting Kampfer sounded like a textbook wrestling maneuver he’s seen Milano perform numerous times in practice and in competition.

Defense attorney John Shea also railed against the credibility of eyewitnesses, who provided varied accounts of what happened.

The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for nearly seven hours.

While waiting for a verdict, Milano said he moved home to Ohio after graduation and recently took the LSAT as he mulls his career choices. He said his life had been on hold due to the trial, but he hoped to participate in programs to assist underprivileged youth in South Africa or Asia in January.

Milano did not want to comment after the proceeding, Shea said.

“He’s really disappointed because he believes in his heart that what he testified to is true and that he was justified in the actions that he took,” Shea said.

“He was convicted of overreacting but not because they disbelieved him or the essential truth of the story. I think they thought he was more aggressive than he should be.”

Several jurors declined comment while leaving the courthouse.

Barnett also declined comment following the verdict.

Art Aisner is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Sun, Oct 25, 2009 : 9:02 p.m.

I am appalled at the judge and totally agree with 81wolverine. So if the judge is basically going to throw out a conviction by his peers, the question is why even have a jury? I wish would look into Judge Schwartz and see what his connection is with the Milanos? Maybe it will come out that Schwarz maybe plays golf and basketball with some other defense attorneys (Joe Simmons and Shae)that have cases in front of him. Maybe it will show hat Schwartz is more lenient on rich defendants than defendants represented by the public defender. I am just wondering if Milano may have some connection and/or interest with Schwartz? And you all know that Milano's dad is a "big wig" defense attorney in Ohio correct? I hope people are seeing the connection.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 9:56 a.m.

Lets get this straight. Wannabe football players tries to score with hockey players ex-girlfriend. Doesn't work out. Hockey player shows up, angry football player picks up drunk hockey player and drops him on his head. Very noble to beat up a drunk guy. The best part is Lloyd Carr can't say two words about the current football regime but will defend this athlete's action against a fellow athlete. Nice job Lloyd. Now crawl back in your hole. I'm sure he'll be following his dream to help the less fortunate in some third world country. NOT!


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 12:44 a.m.

First of all any one who attacks someone from behind deserves to go to jail. Your standing face to face with someone and you do nothing, until he can't defend himself. The on ice assualt on him had nothing to do with him running his mouth, it had to do with someone getting knocked on his butt with a clean leagal hit (KNOW YOUR FACTS BEFORE YOU RUN YOUR MOUTH). he was called by his ex-girlfriend to come up to the bar and talk.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 4:08 p.m.

I think their work (look it up)outside of this incident is much more telling. This was a fight between two U of M athletes. One has gone on to graduate, take the LSAT and various other pursuits. And the innocent victim? Not so innocent. (again, look it up). One of these men will go on and be just fine. The other, probably not and its his own fault.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 2:20 p.m.

There is a huge disconnect with the trial vs what the judge said moments after the jury left the room in this case - the disconnect is that it makes no sense. What is the point of a jury spending three days listening to testimony and then giving their best efforts in discerning the truth from 18 witnesses to come up with a fair verdict (after 7 hours of deliberation) if the judge is simply going to negate their verdit seconds after they leave the courtroom? What's the point of a jury trial? Isn't the point of the sentencing to hear the judge's wishes and with the sentence speak to the juries verdict? I have never heard of a judge stating his opinion and requesting the defense request expungement moments after a verdict. Again, why did he waste 13 people's time for four days?


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 11:40 a.m.

I agree with Mumbambo. There's some information missing here. Why would the judge have said what he did? Picking somebody up and dropping them head-first on the pavement is an extreme reaction for the events described in the article. Did Kampfer take a swing at Milano? Was self-defense involved? To me there's a disconnect between the verdict and judge's comments, and the circumstances/events described in the article.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 11:29 a.m.

Brain studies of football players (and other high-impact sports) are revealing significant scarring (tissue dying and shrinking away in frontal regions) - abnormalities that lead to rage behavior, alcoholism, depression, dementia & Alzheimer's at much earlier ages and in shockingly higher instances than normal. Even in players that only played in high school. Rule of thumb: Avoid relationships with people who are former linebackers, linemen or aggressive hockey players unless you want to be a caregiver for a long time.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:56 a.m.

John Shea is a great attorney.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:44 a.m.

I know them both from school, Mike lived next to me in the dorms and I have had a few classes with Kampfer, both are very respectable people. It is sad they got into this situation, Mike is one of the nicest guys I met that year, he is by no means the viscous type, neither one of them is, just a bad situation for everyone, sounds like the Judge recognized that

Mumbambu, Esq.

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:35 a.m.

Jeremy..."Socializing"...yea, that's what we've always called it :) And you are emphasizing the point that if you're a big meany and say mean things that hurt someones feelings you deserve to be severerly beatin. As a member of our civilized society, I disagree with that.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:25 a.m.

Mr. Dickson, how totally objective your statement is...and it is related to the article in what way? And if I am walking downtown and a drunk guy starts beating on me...I can rest assured you'll not intervene...thanks for the headsup!


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:23 a.m.

Please read the article before thinking its some athlete getting away with a crime. The kid was a walk-on in football, he was defending a girl who he was socializing with from her harassing ex boyfriend, it said the guy was done and ready to move on when this "innocent victim" ran off at the mouth. Sounds to me like the "athlete" is the one who got his butt handed to him. Funny how twice in one season this kids mouth got him severely hurt. Thats not a coincidence, its a pattern. Cant believe Red would keep this instigator on the team.

James Dickson

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:13 a.m.

Great example of why you don't fight other peoples' battles.

Mumbambu, Esq.

Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 9:10 a.m.

There seem to be some gaping holes in this article. What led the judge to say what he did? It reads like it doesn't matter if you attack and nearly kill a guy provided the other guy is drunk and said mean things to you like a big meany.


Fri, Oct 23, 2009 : 8:45 a.m.

Glad that Milano didn't get the felony and it sounds like this judege will expunge this from his record. Guys being rough with women deserve a butt whooping. Maybe now mr. kampfer will learn how to treat women with respect.