Marshals serve subpoena on ex-MSU leader Simon

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
MSU president Lou Anna Simon

Washington -- U.S. Marshals Service served a subpoena on former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon in Traverse City on Wednesday to appear before a U.S. Senate panel next week.

Simon had initially agreed to appear before the Senate subcommittee for a May 22 hearing related to the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal, but that hearing was postponed.

Her attorney then said Simon was no longer willing to appear on a voluntary basis, so committee Chairman John Thune, R-South Dakota, issued a subpoena to compel her appearance, committee spokesman Frederick Hill said. 

After her attorney, Mayer Morganroth of Birmingham, refused to accept service of the subpoena on Simon's behalf, the marshals tracked Simon down and served it her in person in Traverse City, Hill said. 

Thune also issued a subpoena to former USA Gymnastics President and CEO Steve Penny, whose attorney accepted service Friday, Hill said. Former USAG senior vice president Rhonda Faehn didn't require a subpoena to testify. 

Simon was no longer willing to appear voluntarily because she went on vacation to northern Michigan, where she has a condominium, Morganroth said.

"We were perfectly willing to go. Now, they schedule it without asking us about a good date -- they schedule it when she’s on vacation. And she's up north. She’s in her 70s. Enough with these people," Morganroth said.

"All they are looking for as far as I'm concerned is publicity. Because she doesn't really have anything to do with -- she's no longer the president there. She wasn't the provost at the time. It’s silly."

Morganroth said, nevertheless, Simon will go to Washington for the hearing, which is set for Tuesday.  

"It means she has to break off her vacation and destroy it because of them, and she comes when she can’t do much for them. They’ve already got all the information they can get, and when they've already settled the cases," Morganroth said referring to MSU's recent $500 million resolution with Nassar's accusers. 

Simon resigned her position at MSU on Jan. 24 -- hours after Nassar was sentenced to 40-175 years in prison after admitting to to sexually abusing girls and women under the guise of medical treatment. He previously pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography. 

Simon, who had been MSU president since 2005, cited anger over the university’s handling of the scandal involving Nassar, a former sports doctor for MSU and USA Gymnastics, in her decision to step down.

A Detroit News investigation found Simon was among 14 MSU staff members who received reports of Nassar’s sexual abuse over two decades. She told The News she was informed in 2014 that a Title IX complaint and a police report had been filed against an unnamed physician.

But at a university with 14,000 employees, Simon wasn’t involved in decisions on overseeing or firing a faculty member such as Nassar, Morganroth said.

"They could inform her," the attorney said of the Senate committee. "They got documents that she doesn't have -- that she hasn't seen, and because they've already seen many witnesses -- people that are from the university."  

The Senate Commerce subcommittee, led by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and ranking Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, began an inquiry in January into systemic failures to protect athletes from abuse. They heard last month from Nassar victims Jordyn Wieber and Jamie Dantzcher at a hearing.

"I don’t know what (Simon) can add or help them with," added Morganroth, who previously represented Jack Kevorkian and former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young for 20 years.

"There’s a dean that overlooked that particular area. A provost that overlooked the area. Not the president of the university. I think you ought to call the president of the United States and ask him if, in Omaha, somebody over there violated something. I mean, it's ridiculous."

He also was upset the committee canceled last week’s hearing with two business days’ notice, after he and Simon had made flight and hotel arrangements well in advance. 

They received word on the Friday night before the Tuesday hearing that it was off, but his flight was non-refundable, he said.

Morganroth has a conflict with the new hearing date and time, as he’s scheduled to appear before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati at 8:30 a.m. the following day, he said. 

“But they could care less, apparently," he said. "It’s really inconsiderate."