Michigan

Former MSU AD: Federal laws broken if '92 accusations true

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former athletic director for Michigan State University said if the allegations laid out in a new lawsuit are true, her predecessor broke federal law. 

A former student athlete at the university, Erika Davis, accuses Larry Nassar of raping and impregnating her in a lawsuit filed Monday. The allegations date back to 1992 and name current trustee and former A.D. George Perles as covering up the assault.

"I can't judge the validity of the narrative or her complaints but it certainly does cry out — the entire document cries out — for an open, transparent Title IX investigation," said Merrily Dean Baker. She spoke to 24 Hour News 8 by phone Wednesday morning.

Previously, Baker spoke to 24 Hour News 8 about the culture she experienced at MSU that she believes enabled Nassar's predatory behavior

She took over as athletic director on May 15, 1992. The dates in the lawsuit are not definitive, so it's not clear if Perles allegedly interfered before or after he stepped down as athletic director and remained MSU's football coach. 

Regardless, Baker said he would have been a mandatory reporter.

"If what she claimed about George Perles is substantiated, he's broken the law," explained Baker. "The federal law, Title IX, says they are obligated, not suggested. They are legally obligated to one: report to their superior and two: trigger an investigation."

The suit not only claims Perles did neither, but also that campus police did nothing to help Davis and instead directed her back to the athletic department. 

"Campus police did not serve her well when she approached them for help either," explained Baker. "They're also under Title IX requirements, so if that case is also substantiated that's another instance where a university department broke federal law."

The suit said Davis went to the Michigan State University Police Department in October 1992 when Baker was the university’s athletic director. 

She said she would hope Davis would have felt comfortable coming to her, but Baker was never informed of the incident. If she had been there, she said "no question that investigation would've begun that day."

Baker believes the accusations noted in the court documents should immediately initiate an investigation. On average, a Title IX investigation could last upwards of 60 days, she added. 

"I know from when I got there … We had two full-time athletic doctors on our staff and we had a slew of certified of athletic trainers on our staff and they took care of our student athletes,” Baker recounted. “Why was this girl sent to this med student? I mean, it wasn't making any sense to me."

24 Hour News 8 questioned the university on why Nassar could see students when he was still a student himself.

A spokeswoman said Wednesday afternoon they are looking into the same concerns and their legal team is taking the case seriously. She referred back to their statement previously released Tuesday.

“We are deeply sorry for the abuses Larry Nassar has committed, and for the trauma experienced by all sexual assault survivors.   Sexual abuse, assault and relationship violence are not tolerated in our campus community.  While the protocols and procedures mentioned in this lawsuit do not reflect how sexual assault claims are handled at MSU, we are taking the allegations very seriously and looking into the situation.    MSU is working diligently to create a campus community where all members feel safe to study and work free from the threat of sexual misconduct and relationship violence.   At the same time, we want to make sure that when survivors of sexual assault or relationship violence come forward, they are treated with respect, listened to and that we provide the appropriate supports throughout the reporting process.”


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