Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Court of Appeals asked to reinstate charges against former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon

August 29, 2020

Over three months after her charges were dismissed, former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon may not be finished with her longstanding court entanglement.

In a brief filed Monday, the Michigan Solicitor General’s office asked the Court of Appeals to reinstate charges against Simon for alleged knowledge of Larry Nassar’s decades of sexual abuse. 

Simon was charged with four counts of lying to a peace officer regarding knowledge of a 2014 complaint against Nassar. 

In April 2014, Amanda Thomashow reported to MSU Sports Medicine physician Dr. Jeffrey Kovan that Nassar had sexually abused her during a medical appointment. Notes from a meeting held the following day with Simon’s senior adviser and former head of MSU’s Title IX Office, Paulette Granberry Russell, show Simon was informed of Nassar’s name and the nature of the allegations against him, according to the brief.

In 2018, when interviewed by Michigan State Police detectives amid the Department of Attorney General’s investigation, Simon held that she was aware in 2014 that a sports medicine doctor had been subject for review but that she did not know the substance of the review or the nature of the complaint.

After a district court charged Simon with four counts of making a false or misleading statement to a peace officer conducting a criminal investigation, the circuit court disagreed and granted Simon’s motion to quash the information, finding that the district court abused its discretion, the brief said.

According to the brief, the circuit court ruled that a “prudent, cautious person could not entertain a reasonable belief that Simon knew Nassar’s name in 2014, or that she remembered knowing it in 2018.”

They likewise found insufficient evidence that Simon’s lack of knowledge in 2014 of Nassar were material to the investigation and that there had been a large perception that the detectives asked inadequate questions during their interview.

The circuit court reiterated the detectives' “mistake” in not asking certain follow-up questions after the actionable statements to the police, the brief said, stating that “just as the detectives made a mistake, there is no reason to conclude beyond pure speculation that Dr. Simon’s omission – if it was an omission – was willful.”

In their decision, the circuit court said there was a lack of evidence that suggested anyone had communicated with Simon in 2014 regarding allegations or an investigation into Nassar. Further, there was an absence of emails between Russell and Simon including Nassar’s name or evidence that Russell had provided Simon with details of the complaint.

In addition, no one else testified that they had discussed Nassar or the allegation with Simon in 2014. 

As a result, on May 13, an Eaton County judge dismissed all charges.

The appeal brief asks the Court of Appeals to reverse the circuit court decision and to reinstate the charges.

“This is not just about hindsight, knowing what we now know about Larry Nassar,” according to the appeals brief. “Simon may have had any number of things cross her desk on a given day, yet it is reasonable to suspect that an alleged sexual assault by a faculty member of a young girl was not a run-of-the-mill line item on someone’s agenda. And it is reasonable to wonder whether Simon discussed the matter with anyone else at the university.”

According to the brief, sufficient evidence was provided to establish Simon misled the police about her 2014 knowledge of Nassar's abuse and that the district court’s decision was not an abuse of discretion.

Rather, the circuit court’s fixation on the alleged lack of certain evidence rather than the record evidence was improper and demonstrated a lack of focus, according to the brief. 

“As the logical rule of thumb holds, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” the brief said. “The admitted evidence, however, provides sufficient ground for a reasonable person to entertain the possibility that Simon lied to or misled the police, and did so knowingly and willingly.”

Further evidence against Simon highlighted in the brief included a folder where Russell wrote Nassar’s name to remind herself to raise it in the conversation with Simon the following business day. On that meeting’s agenda, Russell wrote “COM Incident," likely referring to the College of Osteopathic Medicine, where Nassar was a staff member.

“Had Simon been truthful about her knowledge of Nassar’s name and the nature of the allegations, it could have led to follow-up questions (and pointed ones) to her and those around her," the brief said. "If the president of a university knows something—a perpetrator’s identity or the nature of his alleged crimes—it makes sense for the investigation to question those around her whether her inner circle or the Board of Trustees whether they had more specific conversations with the president about Nassar and his then-alleged abuse."

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.


Share and discuss “Court of Appeals asked to reinstate charges against former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon” on social media.