Special prosecutor: Michigan State University stonewalls investigation into Nassar scandal
Investigators say university more interested in protecting reputation
LANSING, Mich. – Special Independent Prosecutor Bill Forsyth said Michigan State University and its attorneys have worked to block his team's investigation into the school's handling of sports physician Larry Nassar's sexual abuse scandal.
Nassar was convicted of sexually abusing dozens of young athletes while he was employed by the university and by USA Gymnastics. Forsyth's team was assigned to investigate the university's handling of the scandal. The team included lawyers and investigators from the Department of Attorney General as well as officers from the Michigan State Police. They contacted almost 550 individuals, including more than 280 survivors of Nassar for the investigation.
Moreover, they interviewed 105 people who were named in interviews with survivors including any secretarial staff, trainers, staff from the College of Osteopathic Medicine, the entire Board of Trustees as well as past and current provosts at Michigan state University.
Forsyth said the university and its third-party attorneys did not cooperate despite publicly stating that they would. He said he couldn't understand why the university was more concerned about its reputation than fessing up to wrongdoings and helping his team figure out what went wrong. His officials report released Friday claims Michigan State is stonewalling the "very investigation it pledged to support."
Here's a passage from his report:
"Unfortunately, the University failed to live up to this pledge by: (1) issuing misleading public statements, (2) drowning investigators in irrelevant documents, (3) waging needless battles over pertinent documents, and (4) asserting attorney-client privilege even when it did not apply. These actions warrant extended discussion because they highlight a common thread we encountered throughout the investigation into how the University handled the allegations against Nassar. Both then and now, MSU has fostered a culture of indifference toward sexual assault, motivated by its desire to protest its reputation.
This began even before MSU asked the AG to investigate. Prior to publicly announcing our investigation, the Attorney General's Office asked MSU to turn over the report detailing the internal investigation MSU conducted into its handling of the Nassar matter. MSU had proclaimed publicly that the investigation, led by former United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, would lead to 'prompt [and] appropriate action in response to what [they] learned during the review.' In response to our request, however, MSU revealed that Fitzgerald prepared no written report of any findings. Mr. Fritzgerald, it turned out, was not hired to investigate for the purpose of presenting his findings to the public, as MSU originally implied, but to prepare and protect the institution in forthcoming litigation."
Forsyth said the university made sure a lawyer was present for almost every interview, blocking answers to prosecutor questions by invoking attorney-client privilege.
"At some point in time just admit you screwed up here, take what steps you need to take to rectify it, and apologize," he said.
During an update way back in March, the special prosecutor discussed charges against Nassar's former boss at Michigan State, William Strampel. Since then, former university president Lou Anna Simon has been charged with lying to police in connection to the Nassar sexual assault investigation. Former Michigan State University women's gymnastics coach Kathie Klages also was charged with two counts of lying to a peace officer in connection to the Nassar investigation
Although Forsyth’s contract concludes on Dec. 31, 2018, there are documents being reviewed by Judge Richard Ball and pending litigation for cases resulting from this investigation.
Here is the full report released by Forsyth's team on Friday:
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