Ex-Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation of the handling of serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar — the third current or former campus official other than Nassar to face criminal charges in the scandal.
Simon, who stepped down under pressure in January, spoke with state police investigators on May 1. She is accused of making two false and misleading statements — that she was unaware of the nature of a sexual misconduct complaint that sparked the school’s 2014 Title IX probe of Nassar, and that she only knew a sports medicine doctor, not Nassar himself, was under investigation at that time.
If convicted of two felony and two misdemeanor counts of lying to a peace officer, the 71-year-old Simon faces up to four years in prison. The Mason resident is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday in Eaton County near Lansing.
One of her attorneys, Lee Silver, called the charges “completely baseless” and said he had not seen a “shred of evidence” to support them.
“In my opinion, the real crime here is that these charges are even being brought,” he said. “We are confident that when we have our day in court, Dr. Simon will be exonerated and these charges will be proven to have no merit.”
University spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said Simon — who remains on faculty despite resigning as president — is taking an immediate leave of absence without pay “to focus on her legal situation.”
Simon is the fifth person to be criminally charged in the wake of Nassar’s convictions for molesting young female athletes under the guise of treatment. Numerous other people have lost their jobs or have been sued.
In August, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged former MSU gymnastics head coach Kathie Klages with lying to an investigator when she denied that witnesses told her years ago about being sexually assaulted by Nassar. In March, the ex-dean of the osteopathic medicine school, William Strampel, was charged with neglecting his duty to enforce examining-room restrictions imposed on Nassar after the 2014 Title IX investigation.
That probe, initiated by a patient, resulted in the school clearing Nassar.
In Texas, former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny was charged last month with tampering with evidence while a former sports medicine trainer, Debra Van Horn, was charged in June with “acting as a party” with Nassar in the sexual assault of a child.
Hundreds of girls and women have said Nassar molested them when he was a physician, including while he worked at Michigan State and Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains U.S. Olympians. Nassar, 55, last year pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting nine victims and possessing child pornography, and his sentences equate to life in prison.
SOURCE: The Associated Press