CHARLOTTE, Mich. (AP) — The former president of Michigan State University on Monday made her first court appearance since being charged with lying to investigators about what she knew during the investigation into sexual assault allegations against disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar.
Lou Anna Simon, 71, is accused of lying during an interview in May as police tried to figure how Nassar got away with his crimes for so long. She is charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors.
The arraignment in an Eaton County court lasted roughly 10 minutes, during which Simon acknowledged that the felonies carry a maximum punishment of four years in prison but made no further remarks. She has not entered a plea yet and is due back in court on Dec. 18.
Authorities say Simon knew in 2014 that Nassar had been accused of molesting a woman at a campus clinic, and that she knew the nature of the complaint against him that sparked the school's Title IX investigation. Simon told state police in May that she only knew that a complaint had been filed against a sports physician, but she was unaware of its nature or of the substance of the review.
Nassar, 55, pleaded guilty last year to child pornography possession and sexually assaulting young women and girls, and he will likely remain in prison for life.
Simon's lawyers said the charges have no merit.
Attorney Mayer Morganroth said allegations that Simon received a detailed file about the patient's allegation against Nassar are "evidence of nothing. It's somebody else's note that's never even shown to anybody. ... The evidence is false, ridiculous and it would even be stupid for any of you to even consider it. You'll find out. ... She had 47 years there, and all they're doing is torturing a woman."
The Michigan attorney general's office alleges that about a month after the woman's complaint was filed, a senior adviser to Simon — Paulette Granberry Russell, director of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives — had a meeting with Simon in which Nassar and the sexual assault probe were discussed. The outside of Russell's file folder for the meeting had a note, written by Russell, stating "Sports Med, Dr. Nassar, SA." SA was short for sexual assault.
One item on Russell's agenda for the meeting was "COM incident." COM stands for College of Osteopathic Medicine, where Nassar worked. Simon's agenda included an entry for "sexual assault cases," and Simon wrote in her own handwriting next to it: "COM."
The 2014 probe resulted in the school clearing Nassar and local prosecutors not filing charges, a decade after a teen's complaint also led to no charges. Nassar was fired in 2016 after another victim went public and brought Title IX and police complaints.
Simon resigned in January after Nassar was sentenced to decades in prison for sexually assaulting young women and girls.
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.