Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette lashed out at Michigan State University on Jan. 27 for allowing Larry Nassar to sexually abuse girls and women for years, and he took a shot at the school’s governing body.
“I don’t need advice from the board of trustees,” the aspiring governor said told a packed news conference about his investigation into the school’s handling of sexual assault claims against the disgraced doctor. “Frankly, they should be the last ones providing advice because of their conduct.”
Schuette said independent special prosecutor and retired prosecutor William Forsyth, who has 40-plus years of experience, will work full time on the probe. Forsyth will lead a team that includes top investigators from the state attorney general’s office and the State Police.
“What’s got Michigan State in some trouble here is the sense that they withheld certain information,” Forsyth said. “Maybe because it was going to put them in a better light, but you simply can’t do that.”
Schuette’s comments came a day after the Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News reported that Michigan State University didn’t share with a patient the full conclusions of a 2014 Title IX investigation into accusations of sexual assault she made against Nassar.
The patient, Amanda Thomashow, received an abbreviated version of the report, which found that Nassar’s conduct wasn’t sexual in nature and therefore didn’t violate the school’s sexual harassment policy.
The school didn’t give Thomashow the rest of its findings, including that Nassar’s failure to explain the “invasive, sensitive procedures” he was using and to obtain prior consent from patients was “opening the practice up to liability and is exposing patients to unnecessary trauma based on the possibility of perceived inappropriate sexual misconduct.”
A school spokesman said Thomashow was told the investigation had resulted in recommended policy changes at the Sports Medicine clinic where Nassar worked.
Nassar was sentenced on Jan. 24 to 40 to 175 years for molesting young female athletes. He also worked for USA Gymnastics, whose board of directors are resigning under pressure from the United States Olympic Committee as another part of fallout surrounding Nassar.
Amid the outcry over how the school handled allegations against Nassar, Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon resigned Wednesday night and athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement Friday morning.
The university named Bill Beekman acting president, a role he is expected to have briefly before the board hires an interim president and eventually a permanent leader. The school has not said who will replace Hollis after his last day on the job Wednesday.
Several of the more than 150 victims who spoke at Nassar’s sentencing hearing were former athletes at the school, and many victims accused the university of mishandling past complaints about the doctor.
Gov. Rick Snyder is mulling a separate inquiry into the university, depending on whether it would interfere with other investigations such as the attorney general’s and a potential NCAA investigation. Under the state constitution, the governor can remove or suspend public officers for “gross neglect of duty,” corruption or “other misfeasance or malfeasance.” U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is also investigating the scandal.
The Title IX probe conducted by the university cleared Nassar of sexual assault allegations in 2014. He was advised by the school to avoid being alone with patients while treating their “sensitive areas,” but the school did not follow up on and enforce its request. At least 12 reported assaults occurred after the investigation ended, according to a university police report that was provided to the FBI for review by the U.S. attorney.
Former Michigan State rower Cate Hannum, who was treated by Nassar and wrote an open letter criticizing Simon’s handling of the case almost a year ago, said Hollis’ departure gives her hope for the future of the school’s athletic program.
“It makes room for leadership that demands a zero tolerance policy when it comes to reporting instances of sexual assault and provides proper training for all employees and staff as to how allegations must be handled,” Hannum told The Associated Press.
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