EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University on Friday authorized what officials said will be an independent investigation into the handling of sexual assault complaints against now-imprisoned former sports doctor Larry Nassar, the school’s latest attempt to rebuild trust with his victims and the campus community.
The board of trustees voted unanimously to hire Chicago-based law firm McDermott Will & Emery to investigate and release a public report. The move came about 2½ years after trustees said an internal review was being led by Patrick Fitzgerald, a former Chicago federal prosecutor with the New York-based firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
That review came under criticism because the firm was also assisting the university in anticipation of civil lawsuits and facilitating cooperation with law enforcement following Nassar’s 2016 arrest. No report was made public.
“Today, this board together as one has decided to rip off the Band-Aid,” said trustee Brian Mosallam. “The results of this investigation will be shared with all of you in a public report. ... There will be accountability.”
He credited three Nassar victims — former gymnasts Rachael Denhollander, Sarah Klein and Sterling Riethman — for working with and pushing the trustees to act.
Details on the scope, cost and timeline for the pending investigation have not been worked out.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is investigating the university’s handling of Nassar, questioned the new probe and again called for the school to waive its attorney-client privilege and release documents.
“Michigan State University lacks the credibility necessary to conduct a legitimate investigation,” she said in a written statement. “Over the past few years, it has launched several investigations including an ‘independent investigation’ conducted by Patrick Fitzgerald in 2016. Unsurprisingly, it has cleared its employees of culpability each time.”
Nessel’s predecessor charged three current or former school officials with crimes, including ex-president Lou Anna Simon, who is accused of lying to police. In 2017, Fitzgerald told then-Attorney General Bill Schuette there was no evidence that school officials knew Nassar was molesting young female athletes under the guise of treatment.
Michigan State has reached financial settlements with 391 girls or women who say Nassar abused them. The lawsuits of an additional 116 plaintiffs are pending.