MSU official used private email for 2014 Nassar complaint
One of the first written communications regarding a 2014 sexual assault complaint against Larry Nassar was sent to a Michigan State University administrator’s private email address instead of a university email address subject to public records requests.
Title IX investigator Kristine Moore sent the May 2014 email to the personal Gmail account of her boss, Paulette Granberry Russell, to apprise her of student Amanda Thomashow’s complaint against Nassar, according to Tuesday testimony in the preliminary exam of former MSU President Lou Anna Simon. Thomashow, a former cheerleader, had alleged the sports medicine doctor had massaged her breast and vagina.
The email was sent while there was a “heightened kind of alert” on campus as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigated and visited the university to explore MSU’s handling of sexual assault complaints, Granberry Russell said Tuesday.
The federal scrutiny, the mishandled investigation of Thomashow’s complaint and Nassar’s return to medical duties before the conclusion of the investigation amassed a storm of vulnerabilities that Simon had reason to cover up, prosecutors have alleged during court proceedings on allegations that she lied to police.
Prosecutors argue that Granberry Russell informed Simon in a May 2014 meeting that Nassar was the subject of a sexual assault complaint. Yet years later, in a May 2018 interview with Michigan State Police, Simon denied knowing Nassar was the subject of the complaint, police said.
Prosecutors said Simon lied in the 2018 interview to take shelter from the cloud of civil and criminal liability created by MSU’s mishandling of the 2014 investigation. Simon's defense team has rejected the claim and argued that the whole line of questioning is speculative and wrong.
Granberry Russell's agenda and accompanying documents from a May 19, 2014 meeting with Simon contained handwritten notes that read: "Sports Med Dr. Nassar SA," with "SA" standing for sexual assault.
But in court Tuesday, Granberry Russell was unable to recall details of the notifications made at various levels regarding Thomashow's 2014 complaint, including whether she discussed Nassar at that May 19 meeting with Simon.
"It's possible but, again, I cannot recall stating to President Simon a matter involving Larry Nassar at that meeting," Granberry Russell said.
Granberry Russell testified Tuesday that she told police in 2018 that the environment on campus in 2014 was one of a “heightened kind of alert” because of the federal investigation. The university faced several potential federal sanctions because of the Office of Civil Rights investigation, including the removal of federal funds, she said.
It was in that environment that Thomashow’s complaint against Nassar surfaced.
Granberry Russell asked Moore to summarize Thomashow's complaint and send it to her personal email on May 16, 2014, claiming that she could more easily access her personal email that day.
Earlier that morning, Granberry Russell had sent several emails from home using her university email but she said her personal email was easier to use from her daughter's track meet in Kalamazoo, which was scheduled for later in the day.
"I had my personal cell phone with me and had easier access to Gmail," she said.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Teter, who routinely contrasted Granberry Russell's statements in the courtroom with her testimony in police interviews, appeared dubious of Granberry Russell's explanation for using personal email.
He speculated that her use of personal email "was to keep it off of MSU’s email system, which was subject to FOIA."
When Granberry Russell informed Simon of Thomashow's complaint later on May 16, she used her university email and she noted: “We have an incident involving a sports medicine doctor.”
Simon told The Detroit News in January 2016 that she was informed that an unnamed sports medicine doctor was under investigation.
“I told people to play it straight up, and I did not receive a copy of the report," she said in 2016. "That’s the truth.”
Granberry Russell, who testified for more than six hours Tuesday, will resume her testimony next week.