Friday, April 3, 2020

Ex-MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon's preliminary exam ends with closing statements

July 24, 2019
Former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon before the seventh day of her preliminary examination on July 23, 2019 at the Eaton County Courthouse.
Former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon before the seventh day of her preliminary examination on July 23, 2019 at the Eaton County Courthouse. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

The seventh and last day of ex-MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon's preliminary hearing featured closing statements from both the prosecution and defense Tuesday in Eaton County District Court.

Simon is charged with two counts of lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation — a four-year felony — and two counts of lying to a peace officer in a four year or more crime investigation — a high-court misdemeanor with a maximum of two years. Each charge carries a potential $5,000 fine.

All four charges stem from the 2014 Title IX investigation into Amanda Thomashow’s complaint against ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

Simon's preliminary hearing began in February and concluded Tuesday.

Once a transcript is released, the prosecution has 28 days to file a brief, then the defense has 21 days to do the same. After that, the prosecution has 14 days for a final response.

This means it could be nine to 11 weeks before a decision is finalized on whether or not Simon's case has enough evidence to merit a trial.

What's being considered?

Throughout her preliminary hearing, several people — including Simon's senior advisor and former head of MSU's Title IX Office Paulette Granberry Russell, former MSU Title IX investigator Kristine Moore, MSU Trustee Brian Mosallam, MSU Provost June Youatt and more — testified.

Simon’s statement to police was that she was aware of a sports medicine doctor who was under review in 2014, but she was unaware of "the substance of the review" and "the nature of the complaint."

She told investigators in 2018 that she was not aware of any complaints against Nassar until 2016. However, it's alleged by investigators that Simon was informed in 2014 during a meeting with Russell that Nassar was the subject of a Title IX complaint.

During the fifth day of Simon’s preliminary hearing, Reincke hinted that Simon's case could move to trial, saying, "I think (documents presented) provide probable cause that Dr. Simon knew what was going on."

The prosecution's closing statement

Assistant Attorney General Scott Teter began by saying all he has to do is provide proof of probable cause, which can include some sense of doubt.

Testimony from Moore and Russell, the only two Title IX administrators at the time, are crucial to the prosecution's case. Teter sought to characterize them as aiding and abetting a cover up for Simon and MSU.

The implication of this, Teter said, was allowing Nassar to continue to abuse women between 2014 and 2016 as he still worked at the university.

"Neither one had law enforcement training, victim interview training, prosecution experience or any other background that would help the victims," Teter said. "All of their training experience was regarding employment law and protecting MSU."

Teter also sought to attribute a motive for Simon to lie, including evading criminal and civil liability, and avoiding insurance exemptions.

"I don't doubt her (Simon's) commitment to this college at all. In fact, it's probably that commitment that brings her here today," he said.

The Defense's closing statement

Defense attorney Lee Silver said during closing statements that there is no evidence Simon would subject herself to criminal liability to protect the image of MSU and that there is no evidence that Simon knew of complaints against Nassar before 2016.

"It is nothing but clever rhetoric by Mr. Teter," Silver said.

Silver said, even if Simon did know Nassar's name in 2014, the prosecution could not provide evidence Simon deliberately lied.

Silver sought to minimize the impact of a false statement, arguing that many other witnesses did the same throughout the hearing.

"We obviously know that Dr. Simon's memory is not perfect when it comes to remembering things four years earlier," he said.

Silver pointed to testimony from Marti Howe that described the chaos of the president's office, which consisted of 10 to 12 meetings a day.

"If you do the math," Silver said. "This means that Dr. Simon literally had almost 10,000 meetings," between the meeting in question and her resignation.

Silver said that Detective Lieutenant Joseph Cavanaugh and Detective Sergeant William Arndt — who conducted the interview with Michigan State Police and testified earlier in the hearing — were not credible because they did not put in the written report or in the recording a notification that Simon was being interviewed as a part of a criminal investigation.

Silver's argument is also about the lack of follow-up questions related to which staff members notified Simon of the College of Osteopathic Medicine doctor under review at the time, a focal point of the sixth day of the preliminary hearing.

After the conclusion of closing statements, Silver spoke to reporters outside the doors of the courtroom. He said he felt confident about whether or not the case goes to trial, due to the ability to call new witnesses with a Jury trial.

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