Appeals court agrees: No case against former MSU president in Nassar probe

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Lou Anna Simon in court on July 12, 2019.

The Michigan Court of Appeals says prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to send former Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon to trial for her involvement in the Larry Nassar scandal.

The Attorney General’s office charged the former MSU president with two felonies and two misdemeanors for lying to police during their investigation into the school’s handling of the sexual predator.

Nassar was accused of sexually assaulting more than a hundred women and girls over the course of a career that spanned more than a decade. He was eventually pleaded guilty in federal court to child porn charges and pleaded guilty to abusing women and girls in Ingham and Eaton counties.

FILE – In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo, Larry Nassar, former sports doctor who admitted molesting some of the nation’s top gymnasts, appears in Eaton County Court in Charlotte, Mich. The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday said it is reviewing an earlier decision to decline prosecution against two former FBI agents embroiled in the Larry Nassar sexual abuse cases after new information has emerged. While testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the newly confirmed assistant attorney general for the department’s criminal division will be taking a second look at the FBI’s alleged failure to promptly address complaints made in 2015 against Nassar.(Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP, File)

But two Michigan Attorneys General launched investigations into what officials at Michigan State knew about Nassar and when they knew it.

That investigation resulted in the charges against Simon, and after a preliminary exam, and in October of 2019, an Eaton County judge found enough evidence to send the former MSU president to trial.

Simon had been accused of lying to police when she said she knew of any investigation of Nassar prior to 2016. She’s reported to have said “I was aware that in 2014 there was a sports medicine doc who was subject to a review. But I was not aware of any of the substance of that review, the nature of the complaint that was all learned in ’16 after it became clear in the newspaper.”

Former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon with her attorneys, Tuesday, July 23, 2019

But an Eaton County Circuit court judge dismissed the charges against Simon in May of 2020, ruling there wasn’t enough evidence to take the case to trial.

And today, the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed.

“Without evidence that defendant was provided with Nassar’s name or details about the nature and substance of the allegations in 2014, there was no evidence that defendant’s 2018 statements to the police were affirmatively false or misleading as required by the statute,” the judges said in the ruling.

The judges also criticized the Attorney General’s office for its handling of the case.

“From its inception, the investigation culminating in the charges against Dr. Simon was a hunt for someone at MSU on whom the Attorney General could pin blame for Nassar’s crimes. In an opening statement at the preliminary examination, the assistant attorney general handling this case repeatedly betrayed the true object of this prosecution,” the decision read.

“There can be no doubt but that MSU and many others betrayed Nassar’s victims and caused incalculable harm. MSU and other institutions failed to do their jobs and failed to protect vulnerable young women from a vicious predator. The question facing this Court is whether Dr. Lou-Anna Simon should bear criminal responsibility for this tragedy. The answer, directly and unevasively stated, is no.”

The Michigan Attorney General’s office disagrees with the ruling.

“The evidence presented against President Simon established probable cause for the crimes charged.  The Department followed the evidence where it led.  Any claim otherwise is unfounded.,” said press secretary Lynsey Mukomel. “We are confident in the integrity of the charges against the defendant and are reviewing appellate options in our continued fight for the survivors.”

While she will not stand trial, the entire Nassar scandal eventually prompted Simon to resign as president in January of 2018.

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