Saturday, September 26, 2020

A look back at ex-MSU President Simon's longstanding court entanglement ending in dismissal

May 14, 2020
<p>Former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon (second from left) looks over at Assistant Attorney General Scott Teter during her preliminary trial at the Eaton County courthouse on June 11, 2019. </p>

Former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon (second from left) looks over at Assistant Attorney General Scott Teter during her preliminary trial at the Eaton County courthouse on June 11, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Following over a year of court involvement, former Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon's lengthy court process has ended in dismissal. Looking back, Simon's involvement with MSU speaks to a longstanding conflict between faculty and calls for transparency and accountability amid fallout from the Larry Nassar cases.

Simon's charges were dismissed by an Eaton County judge May 13. In response, Simon's attorney Lee Silver said the court considered the evidence and concluded that the case against her was built on speculation and conjecture, leading to the dismissal.

"The Court’s ruling completely vindicates Dr. Simon and confirms what we have been saying from the day these charges were brought, namely, that there was not a shred of credible evidence to support these charges," Silver said.

Press Secretary Ryan Jarvi from the Attorney General’s office said prosecutors are still reviewing the opinion statement related to the dismissal.

“We plan to appeal the circuit court’s decision to the Court of Appeals,” Jarvi said.

Simon in Court

Simon was originally charged in connection with her prior denial of knowledge of the abuses of Nassar.

The charges included two counts of lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation and two counts of lying to a peace officer in a four-year or more crime investigation. Each of her four charges carried a potential $5,000 fine, as well as potential prison time.

Simon's entanglement with the fallout from the Nassar cases began in 2018 with her resignation.

Simon officially resigned on Jan. 24, 2018 only hours after Nassar was sentenced to a maximum of 175 years in prison.

Prior to that, Simon received calls for her resignation from MSU trustees, the Michigan House of Representatives, several state senators, then gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, former State House Speaker Tom Leonard, as well as newspapers across the nation and dozens of survivors of Nassar's sexual abuse.

After her resignation, university leadership bounced between temporary replacements until President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. officially replaced Simon in August 2019.

In relation to court proceedings, Simon's previous charges stemmed from the Title IX investigation into Amanda Thomashow’s 2014 complaint against Nassar.

Simon was officially charged in November 2018. Her preliminary hearing then began in February and concluded on July 23, 2019.

After her preliminary hearing spanned multiple days, Judge Julie Reincke ordered Simon's case to trial in October 2019.

Simon is one of three MSU faculty members charged in connection with Nassar

Simon is one of three MSU faculty members, including ex-MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages and ex-MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel, to be charged in connection with Nassar.

Upon the dismissal of her charges, she is the only one who didn't receive a guilty verdict.

Most recently, Klages was found guilty in February of two counts of lying to police. These charges stem from her denying knowledge of Nassar's abuse prior to the 2016 investigation.

Klages' felony charge is punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine, and the misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

Strampel was recently released from jail following his guilty charge. He was charged in relation to two counts of willful neglect in his role as Nassar's boss and a count of misconduct in office, a felony.

His charges resulted in jail time; however, he was released early from Ingham County Jail in March.

Simon's retirement led to a $2.45 million payout

Though she resigned in January 2018, Simon maintained a tenured faculty position and a Wills House office until August 2019.

After 45 years with the university, Simon secured a payout of $2.45 million over three years in moving to emeritus status.

Her retirement came one week after her preliminary hearing concluded.

MSU in the fallout of Nassar's crimes

Soon after Nassar's sentencing, the Attorney General's office opened an investigation into MSU's handling of Nassar's abuse. The fallout brought up questions about MSU's role in this and to their treatment of sexual assault survivors.

However, this investigation remains halted as the Attorney General's office has struggled to receive over 6,000 documents and an interview with ex-MSU Interim President John Engler.

The MSU Board of Trustees would have to vote to release these documents, and if not, the investigation will remain halted.

Additionally, the U.S Department of Education, or DOE, fined MSU $4.5 million after an investigation found failures to create mandated crime reporting and public safety networks.

The university remains under controversy regarding its handling of sexual misconduct and Title IX procedures.

Currently, multiple Title IX lawsuits cite alleged mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints by the university's faculty members.

Most recently, lawsuits filed in April in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan aim to hold MSU and the NCAA accountable for negligence, fraud and breach of contract in each of seven individual cases. 

This month, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos created new Title IX provisions for sexual misconduct cases on college campuses. The provisions specifically cited MSU as an example. Most notably, the new provisions require universities to evaluate cross-examination sessions based on two different standards of evidence they can choose to apply.

Overall, the dismissal of Simon's charges marks one facet of an ongoing air of conflict and controversy characterizing MSU's standing during the fallout from the Nassar cases.

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