Lawmakers: MSU mishandled Nassar investigation

Michigan
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LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Members of the Michigan House of Representatives are recommending ways to prevent sexual abuse after an inquiry into Michigan State University’s handling of convicted molester Larry Nassar found he “spent decades developing his ability to abuse patients without detection,” according to a report released Thursday.

The findings state 243 survivors have reported Nassar to the MSU Police Department since 2014.

Additionally, House members discovered 91 complaints have been filed with the university since Kalamazoo native Rachael Denhollander filed the 2016 Title IX complaint that ultimately led to the once-famed doctor spending the rest of his life in prison for sexually abusing athletes under the guise of providing treatment.

Before that, several women testified their complaints of abuse were ignored by university employees.

The 35-page report (PDF) — sent to House Speaker Tom Leonard in a letter from the Law and Justice Committee and Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education — also notes MSU’s unwillingness to accept it could have stopped Nassar when Amanda Thomashow filed a Title IX complaint in 2014.

Lawmakers point out that the Title IX investigator who handled the complaint, Kristine Moore, relied on “flawed testimony of biased medical experts” when conducting interviews with Nassar’s colleagues.

That investigation resulted in MSU determining Nassar’s actions were medically justified and he continued working for the university, but Target 8 found a second report from the investigation circulated internally noted Nassar could be a liability.

“We feel compelled to note MSU appears to defiantly and wrongfully maintain it did not mishandle this investigation,” the report states in one of the footnotes. “The university also tries to minimize the significance of different reports going to the complainant and Nassar by relying on such being consistent with the university’s Title IX obligations.”

As Target 8 discovered and confirmed last month with university officials, Moore was promoted after that the investigation and continues to work for MSU.

New regulations were laid out for Nassar following the investigation, but they were never enforced. Nassar’s then-boss, former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel, now faces felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly not following up and for himself allegedly sexually harassing medical students.

Committee members also found Nassar’s “treatments” were not well-documented in medical records, saying “Nassar did not solicit or receive payments from patients or their insurers for many of the ‘treatments’” and many of the records that were kept “lacked any reference to the sensitive nature of the ‘treatments’ (e.g., intravaginal).”

All were signs that should have prompted concern earlier on but didn’t, the letter notes.

Recommendations detailed in the report focus on four areas: prevention and deterrence, early intervention, justice for survivors and governmental accountability.

Four of the three dozen recommendations made, each being the first listed in the different areas of focus, are:

  • “Ensure intravaginal treatment on minors, outside of certain necessary situations, is not normalized. Additionally, to the extent such treatments are utilized, best practices must be instituted and more guidance must be provided to practitioners.”
  • “Create a new crime for using one’s position of authority over another to prevent that person from reporting criminal sexual conduct (HB 5537).”
  • “Expand the admissibility of prior sexual crimes in a criminal prosecution (HB 5658).” 
  • “Create a Title IX Ombudsman in the Department of Civil Rights to more comprehensively provide means to justice for students on college campuses.”

The recommendations are in addition to a package of Nassar survivor-backed bills passed by the state Senate last month.

The signed lawmakers said they intend “to introduce a bipartisan package of legislation to effectuate these recommendations in the coming days, with committee hearings on the bills, as well as the Senate package, soon after.”

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