LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette lashed out at Michigan State University 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 at a packed news conference Saturday 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 retired prosecutor William Forsyth, who has 40-plus years of experience, will work full time on the independent 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.”
Michigan State should establish a compensation fund that “will likely need hundreds of millions of dollars” for victims of Nassar’s abuse, Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Saturday. He also said university lawyers should be given instructions to drop attempts to fight lawsuits by the victims and instead move the lawsuits toward settlement.
“I strongly encourage swift action (by MSU) that demonstrates a clear commitment to a dramatic shift in policies,” Calley said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. Calley is Schuette’s main rival for the Republican nomination for governor and is a close ally of current governor Rick Snyder.
The board last month authorized the creation of a $10 million fund to offer victims counseling and mental health services.
The comments from two top Michigan officials came days after Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting young female athletes and amid growing public pressure to know what school officials knew and how they acted on abuse claims. Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon resigned hours after Nassar was sentenced Wednesday and athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement Friday morning.
The Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News reported Friday 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 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 did 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.
In addition to his duties at Michigan State, Nassar also worked for USA Gymnastics, which trains aspiring Olympians. The group’s entire board of directors is resigning under pressure from the United States Olympic Committee.
No Michigan State trustees have resigned. Under the state constitution, the governor can remove or suspend public officers for “gross neglect of duty,” corruption or “other misfeasance or malfeasance.
Bill Beekman was named acting president by the board on Friday.
“The board will now work to identify an interim president as quickly as possible and immediately begin the national search process for a permanent president,” school spokesman Jason Cody said Saturday.
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. 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.
By LARRY LAGE
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