MSU: Employees ‘do not remember’ reports about Nassar

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Michigan State University says it has “no indication” that any university employee understood that Larry Nassar had engaged in sexual misconduct before September 2016 — at which time it fired the sports doctor after learning about criminal complaints against him.

In a Monday letter to U.S. Senate investigators, MSU also said it has received 74 complaints to date related to Nassar’s criminal sexual conduct, including 29 complaints received this year that remain open and pending at its Office of Institutional Equity, which handles Title IX investigations.

In its letter, the university says it cannot confirm reports that a number of Nassar’s former patients told various individuals about Nassar’s behavior as early as 1997, including coaches and trainers at MSU or others affiliated with the school.

“Past and present MSU employees have said that they do not remember the alleged reports to them (some of which would have taken place as many as 20 years ago) as they have been described,” lawyers for the university wrote.

“MSU continues to investigate and may learn more as part of the litigation discovery process.”

MSU wrote to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security in response to a Feb. 2 inquiry from Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and ranking Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

The senators said Tuesday they still have questions for MSU, as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics.

“After our initial review, we remain concerned about potential systemic issues within these institutions and plan to seek additional clarification,” Moran and Blumenthal said in a joint statement.

In a letter to the committee, USA Gymnastics’ president and CEO, Kerry Perry, said its officials met with FBI agents in Indianapolis regarding allegations against Nassar in July 2015, and that the FBI informed the organization in September 2015 that the “pertinent interviews had been conducted and the matter had been transferred to the U.S. Attorney and FBI office in Detroit.”

Perry wrote that Paul Parilla, vice chairman of USA Gymnastics’ board, contacted the FBI in Los Angeles the following April after “concern arose as to the perceived lack of progress” in the investigation, and that he and other official met in May with FBI agents.

“It was the understanding of USA Gymnastics after this meeting in May 2016 that the FBI began to conduct additional athlete interviews,” Perry wrote.

Barbara McQuade, who was U.S. Attorney in Detroit until early last year, noted that federal authorities in Michigan filed child pornography charges against Nassar.

“Although the case may have gone to FBI Detroit as the headquarters office for Michigan, the US Attorney’s Office that worked on it was the Western District of Michigan, which covers East Lansing,” she wrote in an email to The News. “That office filed charges against Nassar and obtained a 60-year sentence.”

The senators had asked MSU about allegations made by Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney in a civil lawsuit that she was “coerced” into signing a non-disclosure agreement with USA Gymnastics imposing a $100,000 fine if she were to violate a confidentiality clause by speaking out about her sexual abuse.

MSU responded that it is not party to a non-disclosure agreement with Maroney, “who was never a student at MSU and is not affiliated with MSU.”

Nassar last week had his last sentencing for sex crimes committed while he was a sports doctor at MSU and USA Gymnastics.

He was sentenced in recent weeks to 40 to 175 years in prison in Ingham County and another 40 to 125 years in prison in Eaton County. He is already serving a 60-year federal sentence for possessing child pornography.

An investigation by The Detroit News last month found that reports of sexual misconduct by Nassar had reached at least 14 MSU representatives in the two decades before his arrest, with at least eight women reporting his actions.

Those 14 representatives included former MSU President Lou Anna Simon, who was informed in 2014 that a Title IX complaint and a police report had been filed against an unnamed physician.

Simon has said she did not interfere with the inquiry, which found no violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy based on the evidence, according to MSU.

That complaint, submitted to MSU’s Sports Medicine Clinic in April 2014 by a patient, also was forwarded to MSU Police. Police turned their findings over to Ingham County prosecutors, who did not file charges.

MSU said the adult patient’s allegations in 2014 were different from allegations that surfaced starting in August 2016, as they didn’t involve any form of penetration.

MSU said it was not notified until September 2016 of a criminal complaint filed by a then 17-year-old patient with the Meridian Township police in 2004 regarding Nassar, who was subsequently cleared. Meridian police have since apologized to Brianne Randall-Gay for not fully investigating her claim.

The university said it was also unaware of a USA Gymnastics and FBI investigation into Nassar in 2015, although MSU says emails show Nassar in July 2015 forwarding to a medical colleague at the university an email from USAG’s counsel asking Nassar not to participate in an upcoming gymnastics event.

The email from USAG’s lawyer said “concerns had been raised about some of Nassar’s techniques, and that patients felt uncomfortable with certain areas of their body being treated,” MSU wrote.

Nassar complained by email to the same colleague — unnamed by MSU — on “several occasions” that USAG would not tell him more about the inquiry, which Nassar thought was going too slowly.

MSU said Nassar’s colleague with whom he emailed about this matter is no longer employed by the university.

MSU told the Senate panel that Nassar’s behavior later became the subject of a criminal complaint to the MSU Police by a former patient in late August 2016, and that police reported that complaint to Ingham County prosecutors.

MSU says Nassar was “immediately removed from clinical practice” while it started an investigation. MSU terminated Nassar on Sept. 20, 2016, after confronting him with certain allegations related to his practice.

More than 200 women have come forward in civil lawsuits or in testimony in court to say they were abused by Nassar.

MSU has previously said campus police logged 135 reports of criminal sexual conduct and executed a search warrant that contributed to Nassar’s convictions. The university also established a $10 million counseling fund in December.

Of the 74 complaints that MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity has received regarding Nassar’s conduct, it has closed 36 due to lack of participation by the alleged victim or claimant, MSU said.