Saturday, September 26, 2020

Title IX investigator, adviser testify in ex-MSU Pres. Simon's case

April 8, 2019
Former Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon during her arraignment at the Eaton County Courthouse on Nov. 26, 2018. She is being charged with four counts of lying to a Peace Officer about the Nassar Investigation.
Former Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon during her arraignment at the Eaton County Courthouse on Nov. 26, 2018. She is being charged with four counts of lying to a Peace Officer about the Nassar Investigation. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

Two witnesses testified Monday on the second day of former Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon's preliminary hearing in Eaton County District Court.

Simon is charged with four counts of lying to a peace officer during the Michigan Attorney General's investigation into MSU's handling of Nassar's abuse.

The charges stem from Simon's interview with Detective Sergeant William Arndt and Lt. Joseph Cavanaugh of the Michigan State Police, where Simon said she was not aware of Nassar's abuse prior to 2016.

"I was aware that in 2014 there was a sports medicine doc who was subject to a review," Simon said in the interview, according to court records.

Simon told investigators she was not aware of the nature of the complaint against Nassar in 2014. Arndt said the available evidence suggests otherwise.

The first witness to speak Monday was Kristine Moore, who led a 2014 university investigation that cleared Larry Nassar of sexual misconduct.

In 2014, Amanda Thomashow's complaint of Nassar's sexual abuse sparked a Title IX investigation into his conduct. During the investigation, Simon attended a meeting with Paulette Granberry Russell, former head of MSU's Title IX office and Simon's senior adviser.

Documents from the meeting written in Simon's handwriting were collected by Michigan State Police along with a folder from Russell. The documents included an agenda entry from Simon on the day of the meeting with a notation of "COM."

“COM” is the abbreviation for the College of Osteopathic Medicine, where Nassar worked. The folder belonged to Russell and contained an agenda for the meeting. "SA" was written on the outside; Russell said the notation stands for “sexual assault.”

The prosecution asked Moore about her responsibilities in investigating Title IX complaints in 2014. Moore now works for MSU's Assistant General Counsel.

Moore said in 2014, two individuals handled Title IX complaints; presently, about 10 people handle that responsibility at the university. Moore handled employee-to-employee and employee-to-student complaints.

Most of what was discussed in Monday's session was background information about the 2014 investigation. Lee Silver, one of Simon's attorneys, spent much of the time objecting to the prosecution's line of questioning, saying it was not relevant to Simon's interview with police and therefore not relevant to the case.

Moore testified MSU doctor Jeffrey Kovan contacted her office and told a coworker who also handled Title IX investigations about Thomashow's complaint.

Weeks after hearing the complaint, Moore testified she contacted Thomashow. To Moore's understanding, Thomashow was "uncomfortable" with a procedure Nassar performed on her. It wasn't until speaking to Thomashow by phone May 15, 2014, that Moore realized she was talking about sexual assault, Moore said.

Moore testified that all expert witnesses called for the Title IX investigation worked for MSU.

Following the university investigation's clearance of his conduct, Nassar was employed at MSU for another two years. The prosecution asked Moore if she was aware of how many people say they were abused in those two years and if she thinks it was a proper investigation.

Russell, the second witness to speak, was questioned for less time than Moore. She was asked about her monthly meetings with Simon.

Russell testified that her meetings with Simon typically lasted from 15 minutes to an hour. Russell would update Simon on developments in the Title IX Office like ongoing investigations and new programming.

The prosecution will cross-examine Russell at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Each of Simon's four charges could come with a $5,000 fine. Two of her charges are misdemeanors for impeding an investigation into misconduct in office by public officials. The misdemeanors could carry a sentence of up to two years in prison.

The other two charges are felonies for impeding an investigation into first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Simon faces a maximum four-year prison term on the felony charges.

The Attorney General's office declined comment on the case. Simon's attorney Lee Silver briefly spoke to reporters, saying it's early in the case and the evidence is not definitive so far.

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