Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Court of Appeals upholds dismissal of charges against ex-MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon

December 22, 2021
<p>Former Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon appears at a preliminary hearing at Eaton County District Court on April 16, 2019. Simon is charged with four counts of lying to a peace officer, including two felonies.</p>

Former Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon appears at a preliminary hearing at Eaton County District Court on April 16, 2019. Simon is charged with four counts of lying to a peace officer, including two felonies.

Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

The State of Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a May 2020 decision by the Eaton County District Court to dismiss criminal charges against ex-Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, according to court documents released Tuesday.

Simon had been accused of being aware of ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse following a meeting with former MSU Title IX head Paulette Granberry Russell in May 2014. Subsequently, she was accused of giving “materially false and misleading statements” to police about the meeting in 2016. 

The charges, which were originally put forth in November 2018, included 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. 

The four counts were dismissed in May 2020, with Eaton County judge John Maurer citing insufficient evidence.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a claim to appeal the dismissal of charges against Simon in July 2020.

The Michigan Solicitor General’s office had asked the Court of Appeals to reinstate the charges in August 2020. The appeal brief argued that “the admitted evidence, however, provides sufficient ground for a reasonable person to entertain the possibility that Simon lied to or misled the police.”

During Simon’s trial, the prosecution had repeatedly pointed to a meeting with Russell, which had included an agenda entry referring to an incident in the College of Osteopathic Medicine — where Nassar was employed. 

Simon had told investigators in 2018 that while she had been aware of the 2014 Title IX incident in the college, she was not informed it was Nassar in particular. The complaint, brought forward by Amanda Thomashow, would eventually be ruled as “a legitimate medical procedure.”

Michigan Court of Appeals judge Stephen Borrello said in the court’s affirming opinion that the agenda entry and other evidence could not prove if Simon knew about the details of the complaint. 

“Without evidence that defendant was provided with Nassar’s name or details about the nature and substance of the allegations in 2014, there was no evidence that defendant’s 2018 statements to the police were affirmatively false or misleading as required by the statute,” Borrello wrote.

Michigan Court of Appeals judge Elizabeth L. Gleicher wrote in a concurring opinion that the factual evidence presented by the prosecution in Simon’s trial had “failed to produce any evidence supporting that Dr. Simon’s statements were false or misleading.”

Gleicher said that while the evidence may have implied a deeper knowledge of Nassar’s actions by Simon, they did not constitute a conviction under charges’ statute. She also said there was no evidence to suggest that Simon’s alleged knowledge of the situation influenced the outcome of the 2014 Title IX investigation.

“A literally true answer cannot sustain a prosecution for making a false or misleading statement,” Gleicher wrote. “Second, Dr. Simon’s answers were incapable of influencing the decision-making process, and therefore were immaterial.”

She called the entire investigation into Simon a “hunt for someone at MSU on whom the Attorney General could pin blame for Nassar’s crimes.” Gleicher criticized Assistant Attorney General Scott Teter’s statements in Simon’s lengthy preliminary examination, which claimed that she had lied to various groups in the aftermath of the scandal, as misleading and not fitting for a criminal trial.

“What got lost, however, was that this is a criminal prosecution, not a civil lawsuit,” Gleicher wrote. “Dr. Simon’s negligence, if any, and her efforts to shield MSU from blame, if any, are not crimes.”

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals also reversed convictions against ex-MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages ruling no evidence supported that Klages's false statement was material to the criminal investigation conducted in 2018.

In regards to the dismissal of Simon's charges, MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant reiterated the university's statement.

"While there might be actions continuing through our legal system, MSU is focused on supporting anyone impacted by relationship violence, sexual misconduct or stalking in our community," Guerrant said. "We encourage those impacted to consider the state of Michigan’s confidential hotline (1-855-Voices4) or MSU’s Center for Survivors."


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