Nessel: Investigation into U-M sex abuse case requires full cooperation from university, state funds

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at a press conference in Lansing on March 5, 2020.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at a press conference in Lansing on March 5, 2020. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – During a roundtable with media at her office in Lansing on Thursday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said an investigation into the sex abuse allegations against now-deceased University of Michigan physician Robert E. Anderson would require the university to fully cooperate and that costs of the investigation would have to be covered by appropriated funds from the Legislature.

Her comments were in response to an earlier news conference held in Ann Arbor by survivors of both Dr. Anderson and Michigan State University’s disgraced doctor Larry Nassar and their attorneys, urging Nessel to launch an official investigation into the matter.

Nessel began her statement by saying that her office stands with survivors.

“I commend those who have come forward to speak out about Dr. Anderson’s abuses,” Nessel said. “Your courage inspires us all and shines a spotlight on the work we have left to do to ensure that sexual assault and abuse is taken as seriously in the halls of academia as it is in the halls of justice.”

Anderson worked as a physician at U-M from 1963 until 2003. He passed away in 2008 and Nessel said that Michigan’s statute of limitations on Anderson’s crimes have likely run out.

Read: Survivors of Dr. Anderson, Larry Nassar call on U-M to ‘do the right thing’

She said that her office learned a “significant lesson” from its investigation of MSU, and that U-M must adhere to several conditions in order for an investigation to take place.

“There cannot be a complete and thorough investigation unless and until the university commits to complete transparency and full cooperation,” said Nessel. "Because of that, I cannot and will not consider any request to investigate the University of Michigan without a binding commitment from the university to waive all privileges, including the attorney-client privilege and to fully cooperate in whatever law enforcement efforts there might be.

“MSU’s failure to waive the attorney-client privilege has prevented us from completing our investigation. It has denied the survivors any sense of closure and has also wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. These are actions that absolutely cannot be repeated."

At the time of the MSU scandal, the Legislature appropriated $1 million after the university called on her office to investigate allegations against Nassar. She shared that an intensive investigation -- in partnership with Michigan State Police -- came in under budget.

Nessel shared that funds are limited, especially since the Attorney General’s office has requested the same appropriation of funds for its clergy abuse investigation, which she said is one of the country’s largest ever sexual abuse investigations.

“We have this other major investigation underway and we’re completely under-resourced for it, and we’ve been honestly begging and pleading for money," said Nessel. “We certainly can’t now undertake another massive investigation and not have the resources for it.”

Read: ‘We will hold the University of Michigan accountable,’ says lawyer of Dr. Anderson victims

Nessel said that, as an alumna of University of Michigan, this is a sad moment for the school.

"It breaks my heart to think that any of this would have been going on at the University of Michigan, and to think that some of it might have happened while I was a student there. It’s really upsetting to think about,” said Nessel. “Of course, it’s with great pride that I call myself a Wolverine. The fact of the matter is it’s very upsetting; it’s very sad.

“Like MSU, history will judge U-M by its actions in the wake of this scandal. And I hope it makes different and much better choices."

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