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Michigan State authorizes independent investigation into how it handled Larry Nassar allegations

Nassar abuse survivors speak out

East Lansing, Michigan — 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 report will be made public once it's completed, CBS affiliate WLNS reported.

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 2 1/2 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.

Victim Rachael Denhollander listens as Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, is sentenced in Lansing
Victim Rachael Denhollander, center, listens as Larry Nassar is sentenced in Lansing, Michigan, January 24, 2018. BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS

"Right now we have several investigations underway: [Office for Civil Rights], Title IX. And in those settlement agreements they will identify policies and procedures and oversight accountability that we will as a university need to implement and that's an ongoing process," board chair Dianne Byre added. "This independent report is going to answer the question what happened."

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. Nessel has repeatedly urged the school to cooperate more with her investigation, according to WLNS.

"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, including 332 in an initial wave for whom $425 million was allocated and 59 in a second wave who will receive nearly $28 million of $75 million that was set aside for future claims. The lawsuits of an additional 116 plaintiffs are pending.

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