Schuette seeks documents from MSU’s ex-prez, others

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Attorney General Bill Schuette is asking Michigan State University for a trove of documents, emails and text messages from a slew of current and former officials related to convicted sports doctor Larry Nassar.

Lou Anna K Simon

In a letter dated Saturday, Schuette requested the university hand over every record MSU has pertaining to its former women’s gymnastics coach Kathie Klages, the former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel, and emails and text messages sent to or from former MSU President Lou Anna Simon regarding Nassar.

An Ingham County Circuit judge last week sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for seven counts of first-degree sexual misconduct. It followed statements either read or submitted in court from more than 150 victims of the 54-year-old Nassar, a former USA Olympics doctor. He is already serving 60 years in prison for possession of child pornography.

On Saturday, Schuette told reporters he would be sending the letter, but he did not disclose the scope of the information request, which seeks any records “concerning Kathie Klages, Brooke Lemmen and William Strampel,” including personnel files, records of complaints made against them regarding Nassar or any other complaints.

Kathie Klages

A Detroit News investigation found that Klages in 1997 discouraged then-16-year-old Williamston high school student Larissa Boyce from reporting Nassar’s abuse when she sought treatment for back pain. Boyce is the first person who is believed to have told someone at MSU about Nassar — almost 20 years before he was fired and prosecuted.

“She said, ‘I can file this, but there are going to be serious consequences for you and Nassar,’” Boyce said. “I said I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble.”

Klages retired in February after victims came forward through lawsuits and declined to be interviewed regarding the incident. But Boyce said the coach told Nassar, but not her parents, about the incident.

The attorney general also requested “all reports generated as a result of investigations concerning their conduct while employed with Michigan State University,” Strampel’s work computer and cellphone and all email and text communications related to Nassar sent to or from Simon, former Athletic Director Mark Hollis, Strampel, and a slew of other university officials, including trustees.

Democrats questioned Schuette’s impartiality, arguing that Schuette did not “side with campus sexual assault victims” when he backed U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ “decision to roll back Title IX protections.” DeVos said in September her department was revising Obama administration guidelines with fairer rules that more explicitly recognize the rights of the accused.

Dr. William Strampel

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon said in a Monday statement that Schuette does not have “any right to grandstand or put his loyalty to campaign donors like Betsy DeVos and his political ambitions ahead of the truth.”

On Saturday, Schuette told reporters that the review would be independent.

“Now this investigation is and will continue to be independent, it will be thorough, it will be transparent and it will be prompt,” Schuette said. “My department and its investigation will find out who knew what and when, who took action, who failed to take action, what did or did not happen and what should have happened.”

His request for MSU’s records came as the Attorney General’s Office is trying to figure out how much money it needs for its MSU investigation.

“We are determining what funds we may need to request from the Legislature or SAB (State Administrative Board,” Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said in a Monday email. “The size and scope of this investigation are broad and all encompassing.”

The letter marks a more aggressive request for information since Schuette announced on Friday that his office has been investigating the extent to which those at MSU knew about Nassar’s two decades of sexual abuse.

In his letter, Schuette requested information on MSU’s policies, procedures, employment manuals and training materials related to sexual abuse and assault from 2000 to present and an organization chart identifying names of all current staff, positions and reporting structures.

The attorney general has asked the university supply the information no later than Feb. 9.

“In addition, we are asking that the physical items related to William Strampel be provided to us immediately,” the letter said, signed by Schuette and special independent counsel William Forsyth, whom Schuette has tasked with leading the investigation.

The request did not seek any information about the programs of football coach Mark Dantonio or men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo. ESPN targeted the two programs in a Friday report on MSU’s athletic department that said it “found a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression of such allegations by officials ranging from campus police to the Spartan athletic department … well beyond the highly publicized case of former MSU athletic physician Larry Nassar.”

Schuette held a press conference Saturday to announce a special prosecutor for the probe, but did not take questions from reporters or say when the search for answers at MSU began. A State Police spokeswoman said Schuette’s office asked for investigative assistance with the “ongoing probe” on Friday.

The attorney general, who is also running for governor as a Republican in 2018, asked the university’s attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in December for a report on Fitzgerald’s internal investigation into how staff handled sexual harassment complaints against Nassar. Fitzgerald said no such report exists.

Schuette has broadened his request to uncover any documents, emails or test messages that may illuminate what officials may have known about Nassar’s abuse and when.

“It has become abundantly clear that a full and complete investigation of what happened at Michigan State University from the president’s office down is required,” Schuette told reporters Saturday.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is also considering action against MSU’s Board of Trustees over the Nassar scandal, his office said Friday, softening earlier claims that he did not have the authority to oust university officials.

The Snyder administration is reviewing “options under the governor’s authority, if any,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said, “as well as whether any action would interfere with the numerous investigations under way.”

Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed