Nassar-related case dismissed against ex-university chief

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DETROIT (AP) – A judge dismissed criminal charges Wednesday against former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon, who was accused of lying to investigators in 2018 as they tried to learn what she knew years earlier about sexual assault complaints involving Larry Nassar.

Simon last year was ordered to trial in Eaton County, near Lansing. But Circuit Judge John Maurer tossed the case, saying a lower court judge had abused her discretion in finding enough evidence to keep the case going.

Nassar, who was a campus doctor, is serving decades in prison. Hundreds of women and girls, mostly gymnasts, said he molested them with his hands during visits for hip, back and leg injuries.

The charges against Simon centered on a 2018 interview with investigators who said they wanted to know what officials at the East Lansing school knew about Nassar.

Authorities alleged that Simon knew in 2014 that Nassar had been accused of molesting a patient at a campus clinic, and that she knew of the nature of the complaint.

But Simon insisted that she was aware only that a complaint had been filed against a sports doctor. She said she didn’t learn anything specific about Nassar until 2016.

Maurer reviewed transcripts from the District Court hearing and considered arguments from Simon’s defense team as well as prosecutors from the attorney general’s office.

“The testimony and documentary evidence show … that no one remembers communicating with Dr. Simon about Dr. Nassar in 2014,” the judge said.

“Not one person was able to testify that in 2014 they communicated with Dr. Simon or remembered having knowledge of someone else communicating with Dr. Simon about Dr. Nassar or the nature of the complaint against him,” Maurer said.

Investigators, he noted, “interviewed hundreds of people and searched through thousands of pages of documents.”

In his 25-page opinion, the judge criticized the veteran detectives who interviewed Simon, saying they repeatedly missed opportunities to clarify questions during their meeting, which occurred three months after she abruptly resigned.

The attorney general’s office said it would take Maurer’s decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals and try to get the charges reinstated.

Simon quit as Michigan State president in January 2018, hours after Nassar was sentenced to prison following days of wrenching testimony from his victims.

Besides working at Michigan State, he was team doctor at USA Gymnastics, based in Indianapolis, which trains Olympians. Those elite athletes, too, said they were victims.

The scandal was a disaster for Michigan State. It agreed to pay $500 million to victims. Separately, the U.S. Education Department ordered the school to make sweeping changes and pay a $4.5 million penalty.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last fall said Nassar’s actions were “disgusting and unimaginable” and that the university’s response fit the same description.

In February, former gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was convicted of lying to police. She had denied that two teens told her about Nassar’s abuse in 1997.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

FILE – In this April 9, 2019 file photo, former Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon appears in court in Charlotte, Mich. A judge has dismissed criminal charges Wednesday, May 13, 2020 against Simon arising from the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal. Simon was ordered to trial last year on charges that she lied to police about her knowledge of a sexual misconduct complaint against Nassar. Nassar was a campus doctor and now is serving decades in prison.(Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP, File)
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