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.’
Attorney General Bill Schuette announces an open and ongoing investigation into the systemic issues with sexual misconduct at Michigan State University on Jan. 27, 2018
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday for sexually abusing scores of young girls
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.’
The investigation aimes to determine how Nassar was allowed to abuse patients for nearly two decades without being stopped; who at the University of Michigan was aware of his actions; and what did school officials do once they became aware of the doctor’s behavior, according to CNN.
‘We’re going to put a bright light … at every corner of the university. This will be done right, period,’ Schuette said.
Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Saturday that Michigan State should also establish a compensation fund that ‘will likely need hundreds of millions of dollars’ for victims of Nassar’s abuse.
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.
Schuette said during the press conference that he will have the school’s attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, ‘turn over … all information he has gathered in the course of his work to ensure our investigation leaves no stone unturned.’
Fitzgerald is a former federal prosecutor known for overseeing numerous investigations into mobsters, terrorists and corrupt politicians.
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.
More than 100 victims have also named Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics in a number of civil lawsuits, accusing the institutions of either being negligent or tacitly complicit in the abuse after improperly dismissing allegations.
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.
A Title IX probe conducted by the university cleared Nassar of sexual assault allegations in 2014. The Detroit News reported earlier this week, however, that allegations of abuse committed by Nassar reached at least 14 MSU representatives in the two decades before his arrest.
USA Gymnastics and Michigan State have denied any wrongdoing, with USA Gymnastics adding that it alerted authorities immediately of the allegations after receiving reports of abuse.
Following the Title IX probe, Nassar 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.
Nassar was a Michigan State sports physician from 1997 to 2016.
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.