Larry Nassar, Michigan State: actions ‘made it virtually impossible.
In a scathing report on Michigan State University’s handling of sexual assault complaints against Larry Nassar, the Attorney General’s Office said the university’s “culture of indifference and institutional protection” contributed to hundreds of women and girls being sexually abused.
The document, released Friday, says university employees failed to report concerns about Nassar, provides new details of the deeply flawed 2014 Title IX investigation, and shows how top MSU officials tried to stonewall the independent investigation, an extension of an “anti-transparency” culture.
“An institution truly interested in the truth would not have acted as MSU has,” wrote William Forsyth, who led the investigation. “MSU’s initial decision to hire a private law firm to conduct its internal investigation, its subsequent refusal to release the results of that investigation and waive attorney-client privilege, along with its insistence on having its attorneys attend witness interviews have made it virtually impossible to know exactly what happened at MSU during the Nassar years.
“For as long as MSU frustrates the search for the truth, we will never be fully confident that we have it.”
Although Forsyth’s report is the most detailed and damning document released to date on MSU’s failures, university officials maintained their position that they’ve cooperated with the investigation.
In a statement, university spokeswoman Emily Guerrant pointed to the fact that no new charges were announced.
“We are extraordinarily sorry that Larry Nassar was on our campus and has hurt so many people,” she wrote. “The university is engaged in — and investing in — an intense reform and cultural change effort to ensure that Michigan State University is a safe campus for students, faculty, staff and community.”
Forsyth will depart the investigation at the end of the year, but he said Friday the work isn’t over. Prosecutors are still fighting in court for 177 documents the university won’t release, and three criminal cases are proceeding against top university officials.
Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel will oversee the prosecutions of former MSU President Lou Anna Simon, former dean William Strampel and former gymnastics coach Kathie Klages, all charged through Forsyth’s investigation.
In a statement, Nessel referred to MSU’s “callous disregard” for victims.
“I am committed to using my role as Michigan’s Attorney General to do whatever we must to bring justice and honor to the survivors, which includes continuing any aspects of the investigation which require further action.”
To date, the investigators have contacted almost 550 people, including interviews of over 280 victims and 105 current or former MSU employees. They’ve reviewed about 105,000 documents, consisting of almost 500,000 pages.
Investigators also interviewed Nassar. He was one of the first contacted and provided no useful information. “In fact,” Forsyth wrote, “it immediately became clear that his statements of remorse in the courtroom were a farce.”
Central to Forsyth’s investigation was who at the university may have been aware of Nassar’s abuse and failed to act. His report listed 13 women who from 1997 to 2015 reported Nassar’s abuse to MSU employees, and the 11 employees who failed to report that abuse to authorities. He said all 11 either did not recall being told or said they were not told.
When asked why he had not charged those who denied being told of Nassar’s abuse even though victims told police those employees had knowledge, Forsyth declined to comment.
“(T)he MSU employees who allegedly received reports of Nassar’s sexual assault or improper medical treatment … downplayed its seriousness or affirmatively discouraged the survivors from proceeding with their allegation,” Forsyth wrote.
“That so many survivors independently disclosed to so many different MSU employees over so many years, each time with no success, reveals a problem that cannot be explained as mere isolated, individual failures; it is evidence of a larger cultural problem at the MSU Sports Medicine Clinic and MSU more broadly.”
Christina Grossi, a member of Forsyth’s team, said all MSU’s trustees had been interviewed and they all kept to the university’s position of “circle the wagons,” including those trustees who have publicly supported the victims and advocated for change.