Update – December 25, 2019, 5:13 p.m.: The investigation into the Larry Nassar scandal has not been suspended, according to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. She said Wednesday that it is at an “impasse.”
The AG said that an “inadvertently misleading” statement from a spokeswoman for her office needed to be clarified, according to The New York Times.
“For the record, I remain deeply committed to finding the truth about who knew what about Larry Nassar at M.S.U.,” Nessel said. “Our department has continued to make it clear — over and over again — that we are at an impasse with M.S.U. as we continue to seek release of more than 6,000 documents the university continues to withhold from our office.”
Our original article is below.
A multiple year investigation into several former officials at Michigan State University related to the school’s handling of the Larry Nassar scandal has been shelved by the state’s top law enforcement official.
According to the Associated Press, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, suspended the investigation after officials at the university stonewalled investigators by refusing to release thousands of documents citing the attorney-client privilege. Some 6,000 such documents are currently in the hands of the school’s governing board–which so far has been unable to come to a conclusion as to whether to release them.
The school’s board of trustees is said be personally reviewing those documents and reportedly fears their release might impede ongoing litigation against an insurance company currently refusing to help defray the school’s hefty legal fees from the Nassar scandal fallout. A judge assigned those documents privileged status earlier this year and Nessel said she didn’t expect anything to change with that determination.
That same board was previously the cause of controversy earlier this year after backtracking on a promise to Nassar’s victims by suspending an independent review of his crimes.
“We appreciate all the time and hard work the Attorney General’s office has put into their investigation over the past two years,” Michigan State University spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant told the AP on Tuesday. “MSU has cooperated fully with the inquiry, including handing over all facts associated with the case.”
We continue making improvements and increasing our education and prevention efforts to make sure this can never happen again. Our hearts are with the survivors and their families as they continue their healing as well.
Another sticking point is a planned but as-yet-unscheduled law enforcement interview with the school’s former interim president John Engler–who held that position during the height of public scrutiny trained on the East Lansing institution. An attorney in Nessel’s office and Engler’s attorney have so far disagreed on his availability to speak with investigators.
“What remains in those documents is attorney’s counsel and advice,” Guerrant continued. “As for former interim president John Engler, the university supports the A.G.’s request to interview him and has sent him letters asking for his cooperation in the matter.”
But at least one of Nassar’s victims isn’t buying the university’s spin.
“We have a publicly funded entity that is run with taxpayer dollars that is not accountable to the taxpayers,” former gymnast Rachael Denhollander said. “Millions of taxpayer dollars and they’re even shunning a law enforcement agency.”
“There are predators on that campus who are watching the board send the message that it doesn’t matter,” Denhollander continued. “Everyone is at risk because of the board’s continual choice to prioritize money over people.”
The investigation, which began under Nessel’s GOP predecessor, Bill Schuette, has already led to a conviction against Nassar’s former boss William Strampel. The onetime dean of the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine was found guilty this summer of misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.
Two additional individuals are currently facing trials.
Former Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon is charged with two felony and two misdemeanor counts of lying to police over her knowledge of then-allegations against Nassar in 2014 during an internal review.
“We plan to vigorously defend Dr. Simon and will be appealing the decision of the district court,” Simon’s attorney Lee Silver told The Detroit News in October. “We remain confident that we will ultimately prevail and that Lou Anna Simon will be fully acquitted of these charges.”
Also charged with lying to police in the inquiry is former athletics coach Kathie Klages.
Alberto Luperon contributed to this report.
[image via Scott Olson/Getty Images]