An attorney for former Michigan State University president Lou Anna K. Simon said Monday that his client will plead not guilty to charges related to her handling of the investigation into convicted pedophile Larry Nassar, after Simon was arraigned in the same courtroom where scores of women once testified about Nassar's sexual abuse.
Simon is facing two felony charges and two misdemeanor charges stemming from a conversation she had with two police officers in May about the university’s Title IX 2014 investigation into Nassar, who worked at the school’s sports medicine clinic.
Simon allegedly told the officers that at the time of the investigation, she didn’t know whether Nassar was involved in the complaint, which arose when medical student Amanda Thomashow accused Nassar of assaulting her in March 2014. Simon also allegedly said that she didn’t know the nature of the investigation.
However, law enforcement authorities say handwritten notes from a 2014 meeting attended by Simon show the administrator in fact did know that Thomashow had accused Nassar of sexual assault.
In fact, at least 14 Michigan State University officials knew of claims against Nassar in the years before he was charged, according to a Detroit News investigation. The Michigan State Title IX investigation into Thomashow’s complaint concluded that Nassar, who Thomashow said massaged her breast and vaginal area, did not behave in a sexual manner.
“We are aware of the charges brought today against former President Simon," Michigan State University spokesperson Emily Guerrant told the State News in a statement on Nov. 20, when Simon was first charged. "She is taking an immediate leave of absence, without pay, to focus on her legal situation."
Each felony charge against Simon carries a penalty of up to four years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine, while each misdemeanor could bring up to two years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Simon is currently on release on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.
Simon didn’t speak much during her arraignment, but her lawyer, Lee Silver, told NPR afterwards, "Dr. Simon is about as far from a criminal as anybody that I could think of, and it's ridiculous that she is being treated like a common criminal."
More than 260 people have accused Nassar of abuse in incidents spanning many years. He’s currently serving out a centuries-long prison sentence after pleading guilty to child pornography charges and multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct.
Cover image: Larry Nassar appears in court to listen to victim impact statements during his sentencing hearing after being accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University where he had his sports-medicine practice, on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)