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Former MSU president in court for day 1 of preliminary exam

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Attorneys gave their opening statements in former Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon’s preliminary exam, and both sides accused the other of making false statements.

The preliminary exam is held to determine if there’s enough evidence to send Simon to trial on charges of lying to police during the Larry Nassar investigation. If convicted on the two felonies and two misdemeanors, she faces up to four years in prison. 

Judge Julie Reincke did not make that determination today. Both sides agreed to delay the proceedings to allow more time for discovery.

During opening statements, Assistant Attorney General Scott Teter accused Simon of lying to protect the university, as well as her own legacy.

“Why did the defendant lie? Because as I’ve said, if MSU image and reputation, and the defendant’s image are inextricably linked,” he said. “If MSU looks bad, the defendant looks bad.”

But one of Simon’s attorneys, Mayer Morganroth, pointed the finger squarely back at investigators.

“The amount of lying that’s been done is overwhelming, but not by Lou Anna Simon. By the prosecution and by the detectives,” he said.

Police and prosecutors say Simon lied when she said she did not know Nassar, specifically, was the subject of Amanda Thomashow’s 2014 Title IX complaint. They also say her statement that she did not know the nature of the complaint at the time was false.

Simon told police she was only aware that a sports medicine doctor was under investigation, but did not know it was Nassar until two years later, when the allegations became public.

“She knew the statements were false,” Teter said, “And that the statements were material to their investigations of CSC (Criminal Sexual Conduct) 1st and misconduct of a public official.”

Previous court documents show that Paulette Granberry Russell, the director of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives and senior advisor to the president for diversity, met with Simon in May of 2014, where the two discussed the Title IX complaint against Nassar.

Records show Russell brought notes and agenda items to the meeting which had Nassar’s name written on the outside. On the folder used for that meeting, Russell wrote about the “COM incident” and “Sports med Dr. Nassar SA.”

In an interview with police, Russell said “SA” meant sexual assault and “COM” meant College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Teter pointed to that note on the folder as evidence that Simon knew about Nassar in 2014. But Morganroth said Michigan State Police detectives lied under oath when they said Simon was shown the note.

“Paulette russell has, in five times, under oath, said she never even mentioned the name Nassar or discussed the name, ever, in 2014 or 2015 with Lou Anna Simon,” he said. “What a lie! First of all, Paulette Russell, five times interviewed by them, said ‘I don’t recall ever having such a meeting, and if it was, it was by phone.’ So how could it have been brought? And they knew that when they told the court this.”

Michigan State Police declined to comment on Morganroth’s statements.

Morganroth also alleged the charges against Simon were brought to help former Attorney General Bill Schuette in his bid for governor in 2018. Morganroth said the attorney general’s office interviewed Simon, and decided to charge her came just before the election. Charges were officially brought two weeks after the November vote.

“It was decided to charge her before the election took place. Once it took place, they were on the hook,” Morganroth said after the hearing.

Dan Olsen, a spokesman for current Attorney General Dana Nessel, did not directly address Morganroth’s allegation, but said her offices takes the charges seriously.

“We are not taking these charges lightly, but we are committed to the facts and we’re going where the facts take us and we’re loyal to the truth,” he said.

Thomashow took the stand during the hearing Tuesday. She testified about the Title IX complaint she filed against Nassar at MSU in 2014 to help provide a timeline of what happened during the investigation. 

During her testimony, Thomashow spoke about the assault, and says when she reported it, MSU did not help her.

“The way that MSU treated me and silenced me, killed me, and I’m not the same person,” she said.

Thomashow added the effects of the assault and the aftermath still last to this day.

“I’ve lost trust and faith in a university that I grew up worshiping,” she said. “I can’t be alone with men, I have anxiety attacks every time I go to the doctor.”

Simon’s preliminary exam is scheduled to resume on April 8. 6 News will be in the courtroom.

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