Michigan State University’s former and long-time president, Lou Anna Simon, has been charged with two felony and misdemeanor counts of allegedly lying to law enforcement officials investigating Larry Nassar.
Nassar, a USA Gymnastics physician convicted of molesting scores of patients, has already been sentenced to serve up to 125 years in prison.
Simon, reports NPR, repeatedly told officials that she didn’t know Michigan State’s Title IX office and police department had opened an investigation into Nassar following a 2014 complaint. While Nassar was eventually cleared by the university, Simon later said hadn’t been told the sports medicine practitioner’s name.
“In fact she knew it was Larry Nassar who was the subject,” investigators claim.
Nassar pled guilty in early 2018 to federal child pornography charges and 10 counts of criminal sexual misconduct in Michigan.
If Simon’s found guilty of the charges filed against her, she too could face time behind bars—up to four years, according to the Associated Press.
Simon’s lawyers say her indictment is itself a serious offense.
“The only crime committed is the criminal complaint,” attorney Mayer Morganroth told the New York Times. “It is political and completely false and the responsible party will pay for it. Shame on them.”
The Times adds that Simon resigned from Michigan State shortly after the Nassar scandal broke. She was later named a “distinguished professor” at the university.
‘It is rare, though not unheard-of, for prosecutors to try to hold university leaders criminally responsible for their handling of misconduct by others,’ writes the Times. The paper notes that former Pennsylvania State University President Graham B. Spanier was convicted of 2017 on one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child.
Some of Nassar’s victims have voiced their support for the charges against Simon.
Lindsey Lemke, who was abused by Nassar and confronted Simon in court, said it’s clear that Michigan State’s former leader “tried to hide from this situation and only protect herself.”
“This serves as a statement that we are continuing to hold our fight and that we are not backing down until all enablers are held accountable for their poor actions,” Lemke said.
The charges against Simon were filed in a Michigan state court by William Forsyth, a special prosecutor appointed by outgoing attorney general Bill Schuette. The Times reports that neither Forsyth nor Schuetet have issued a public statement on Simon’s indictment; neither have they remarked on whether others might be arrested alongside her.
Simon, says MLive, is the third person charged by the Attorney General’s Office in relation to the Nassar Scandal.
Former MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine dean William Strampel and MSU Gymnastics coach Kathie Klages face different charges. Both were charged before Simon. Their cases are currently pending in Ingham County Circuit Court.