Michigan legislators from both sides of the aisle sent a join letter to Michigan State University Thursday requesting thousands of documents related to the Larry Nassar investigation be released.
Led by Michigan Reps. Ryan Berman and Julie Brixie and state Sen. Curtis Hertel, a coalition of nearly 50 Michigan state lawmakers are calling on the MSU Board of Trustees to waive privilege for about 6,000 documents that are related to the investigation of former MSU and USA Gymnastics sports physician Nassar.
In 2018, Nassar was sentenced 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing young athletes, including some girls under the age of 13. The 54-year-old originally was charged with more than 20 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, but instead agreed to a plea deal. More than 150 victims -- 156 to be exact -- delivered impact statements during the seven-day sentencing hearing in 2018.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has led the three-year investigation into the university and its role in Nassar’s crimes -- but in February of this year, Nessel said the investigation was going nowhere.
According to Nessel, the investigation is inconclusive due to the 6,000 documents that have not been released to investigators by the MSU Board of Trustees, citing attorney-client privilege.
“You will have shut the door on the pursuit of justice,” Nessel said a letter to the board. “I cannot think of a worse conclusion to the investigation -- which this Board asked for -- than that.”
The attorney general’s office has no legal options available to it that would allow for review of the material without the MSU Board of Trustee’s consent.
“MSU’s refusal to comply with my request leaves me with no choice but to close this investigation in a manner that provides no real closure or justice to the people who deserve it,” Nessel tweeted last month. “I again urge the Board of Trustees to seriously consider my request.”
On Thursday, March 25, members of Michigan’s House of Representatives and Senate sent a letter to the board, urging them to release the documents so that Nessel can complete the investigation.
“When the Attorney General’s Office began this investigation over three years ago, the Board of Trustees stated, ‘only a review by your Office (the Attorney General’s Office) can resolve the questions in a way that the victims, their families, and the public will deem satisfactory and that will help all those affected by Nassar’s horrible crimes to heal,’” the letter reads, in part.
“The Attorney General’s Office has reviewed thousands of other documents and interviewed thousands of witnesses during the course of their investigation. However, the Attorney General’s Office cannot complete its investigation without your cooperation and the release of these documents.
“It is our understanding that members of the Board of Trustees have undertaken their own review of these documents so they might better evaluate the merits of releasing them. While we appreciate those efforts and the time involved, trust cannot be restored until the Attorney General’s investigatory team has had the opportunity to review these documents as well.”Letter sent from members of the Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate
The Michigan legislators say without the release of those documents, Nassar’s victims will not experience complete justice, despite the man’s prison sentence.
“While Larry Nassar will be behind bars for the rest of his life, countless serious questions remain unanswered,” said Rep. Berman, of Commerce Township. “Nassar’s victims deserve justice, and justice can’t be delivered until a full investigation at MSU reveals if anyone else knew about it and when.”
In August of 2020, another former MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was sentenced to 90 days in jail after being found guilty of denying she knew of Nassar’s abuse prior to 2016, when survivors started to come forward publicly. She also was sentenced to 18 months of probation. Nassar’s boss at MSU, ex-College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel, was also sentenced to jail for crimes including neglecting a duty to enforce protocols on Nassar after a patient complained about sexual contact in 2014.
“Full transparency is essential to restoring public trust,” the legislators wrote to the MSU Board of Trustees. “We owe it to the survivors, families, students, faculty, employees, and the entire MSU community to have a full, transparent, and impartial investigation completed. You have the opportunity to ensure this happens.”
You can see the legislators’ entire letter to Michigan State University below.