Friday, December 7

Lou Anna Simon: Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right

Some may say that former MSU President Lou Ann Simon is getting what she deserves for her strident position she took against Penn State officials over the Sandusky scandal, but two wrongs don't make a right.

Ray Blehar
December 7, 2018, 9:06 AM EST, Updated 8:03 PM EST

The lessons of the Jerry Sandusky scandal remain lost and the fallacies of the Freeh Report have come back to haunt former Michigan State University (MSU) President Lou Anna Simon.

Simon, who jumped on the Freeh Report bandwagon in 2012, gave no quarter to Penn State University (PSU) officials who were fooled by a Pillar of the Community serial sex offender.   Six years ago, the former MSU President accused PSU  of "purposeful and premeditated" acts that were "pervasive." 

"People make mistakes, and some of those are purposeful and premeditated, and if you just take the Penn State experience, pretty pervasive. Other times, people just make mistakes, and we have to have a violations structure and framework that tries to sort through that in the labels of what the NCAA does. Right now, it doesn't because 'major' and 'minor' don't make a lot of sense. 

"The purpose is to try to incentivize people doing the right thing, and the right thing is saying something when you see something and doing something after you said something. It's really that simple."

The evidence shows in the Larry Nassar case that it wasn't that simple at MSU either.

Nassar was reported to MSU officials on numerous occasions.  Few said anything or even made a report to their bosses.  Only one complaint by an athlete was investigated and that resulted in no charges or punitive actions against Nassar.   He continued to molest young women on the campus for two more years.

Simon's own stern words about PSU have come back to haunt her as she faces charges for lying to police when she allegedly learned about Nassar's misconduct in 2014.    While there is no legal or factual basis that she could have done anything more to help investigators, she is guilty in the eyes of the public.  Nassar happened on her watch.

But it should never have come to this for Simon.

Laziness and Ignorance

Had Simon and her academic colleagues on the NCAA Executive Committee (EC) performed due diligence and actually took the time to evaluate the Freeh Report, they would have undoubtedly come to a very different conclusion about the culpability of PSU officials. 

They, like many others who have actually studied the report, would have viewed it as sloppy work, a complete affront to higher education, and a dishonor to Sandusky's victims.  The Freeh Report would have received a grade of "incomplete" if a professor felt generous. Otherwise, most professors would have failed the report for its lack of completeness, factual errors, and overall lack of attention to detail. 

Apparently Simon and her lazy colleagues took the easy route and read only the Executive Summary and then relied on erroneous media reports, including coverage of Freeh's hyperbolic press conference, to get the rest of their information. 

Then NCAA EC Chairman, Ed Ray, admitted he never read the full report -- but wrote an email encouraging action against PSU based on an ESPN column and reader comments.

As a result of their lack of due diligence, the EC endorsed sanctions against PSU athletics, including fines, vacating of wins, reductions of scholarships and a farce Athletics Integrity Agreement (AIA) thats only tangible result was that former Senator George Mitchell and his law firm got to line their pockets with cash.

In late 2013, Simon hailed the great strides PSU made under the AIA as the NCAA reduced the sanctions.  Freeh's twelve recommendations to right the wrongs of PSU athletics and fix the so-called "football culture" were completed, astonishingly, in less than six months. In early 2013, PSU had to give Mitchell additional monitoring duties outside athletics to keep him busy.

Simon was completely ignorant of the realities at PSU because she fell for Freeh's con job and that was likely due to her own laziness.

Sandusky Lessons Not Learned  

Earlier in 2013,  not a peep was heard from Simon about the excellent report authored by former FBI agent James Clemente.  That report informed the public about how Pillar of the Community/Nice Guy offenders (e.g.,  Sandusky and Nassar) operate and fool everyone.

Had Simon even bothered to read Clemente's report or did she write it off based on media reports that it was paid propaganda to exonerate Joe Paterno?   Perhaps if she read it, her radar would have gone off in 2014 when she heard about a "sports medicine doctor" who had allegedly sexually assaulted a patient. 

On February 27, 2013, just twenty days after the release of the Clemente Report, Simon stood by NCAA President Mark Emmert who was facing a vote of confidence over his leadership and many high visibility missteps that brought the NCAA to the brink of crisis.  She explained that Emmert was hired to make fundamental changes and that mistakes would be made along the way.

Those mistakes included not following investigative protocols, relying on dubious investigative findings, and punishing those who didn't any violate rules.

Ironically, Simon is now the subject of similar "mistakes" from the  Michigan AG.

Simon, who never questioned the veracity of the failure to report and perjury charges against former PSU officials in 2012, that were later dismissedis singing a very different tune about her legal culpability.

Her legal team wrote:

"The only crime committed is the indictment. It is political and completely false and they will pay for it." 


"We are confident than when we have our day in court, Dr. Simon will be exonerated and these charges will be proven to have no merit."


"We're not going to get into the evidence because the evidence is false, ridiculous and would be even stupid for any of you to even consider it." 

Simon and her legal team obviously didn't pay attention to the Spanier case and are likely in for a big surprise if they think the Michigan AG is simply going to try Simon on the evidence specific to her alleged crimes.  Rest assured, if a judge will sign off on the bogus crimes in the affidavit, another judge will give prosecutors considerable latitude in making their case against the former Spartan president. 

Simon now gets to live through the same nightmare that she took part in foisting on PSU's Spanier.

She is finding out what it is like to be prosecuted (and persecuted) based on flimsy evidence and suppositions, not facts.   She is finding out that what she knew or didn't know about Nassar's criminal actions on the MSU campus is quite irrelevant to her being the subject of the public scorn.

Simon stands accused of some rather insignificant crimes, but in the eyes of the public she is an evil witch that was part of a "culture" that enabled Nassar crimes -- and, of course, she allowed his crimes to continue because she was protecting her school's reputation and insulating it from legal liability.

Simon rightly denies all of it -- as she should.

She and MSU were fooled by Nassar just as Spanier and PSU were fooled by Sandusky.

Of course, few in the public believe that because the lessons of the Sandusky scandal weren't learned in 2012 and 2013.

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

Even though the public, including many MSU and PSU supporters, believe that Simon is getting what she deserves, stands firm that two wrongs don't make a right.

1.  Simon should not have resigned under public pressure because Spartan officials were taken in by a master manipulator like Nassar any more than Spanier deserved to be forced out over public pressure from the Sandusky mess.

2.  Simon also doesn't deserve to be prosecuted for bogus charges just because another grandstanding AG wants to lay blame (and legal liability) for Nassar on MSU instead of Michigan's public officials who could have stopped Nassar long before 2014.

In the latest installment of deflecting blame away from those most responsible, former Michigan Attorney General (AG) Bill Schuette lamely charged Simon with lying to investigators. In other words, she was charged with a "process crime"--  not a crime that had anything to do with enabling Nassar's serial sexual victimization of girls and women.

Bogus Charges

In a flimsy affidavit, Schuette's office contended that if had Simon been truthful in 2014, the police would have more stridently investigated if MSU was "concealing or diminishing allegations of sexual assault against" Nassar.

Concealing?  Was the Michigan AG channeling Louis Freeh when they authored that?

The evidentiary leaps made the Michigan AG also rival those in the Freeh Report. 

The strongest  evidence for the charges against Simon consist of mixed bag of evidence (some belonging to Simon, some not) that does NOT prove she was told or learned the identity of Nassar at a 2014 meeting she had with Senior Advisor and the Director of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, Paulette Granberry Russell.

To be clear, the AG's case that Simon knew Nassar's identity is wholly based on the evidence that Russell had written his name the outside of her folder that she took to the meeting with Simon.  There is no evidence that Simon saw the name on the folder or if the outside of the folder was even visible to her at any point in the meeting.

One can also surmise from the AG's evidence that nothing inside Russell's folder on Nassar contained his identity -- as would be normal for an investigation of this nature.   As such, even if Russell shared the contents of her folder with Simon, she wouldn't have learned his name.

A legitimate case that Simon knew Nassar's identity would undoubtedly include a statement from Russell that she disclosed the name of the former athletic doctor at the meeting.

No such statement exists in the affidavit and as such, this charge is without merit.

Before moving along to the rest of the evidence against Simon, it is notable that the discussion of the Title IX investigation was agenda item #6 of the 2014 meeting. 

The Nassar investigation was not at the top of the list for the meeting -- it didn't even make the top five.  The Nassar Title IX investigation was by no means a five-alarm fire.

It is not clear how many other items were discussed that day, but the AG's bogus charges are based on the supposition that Simon had a perfect recollection of the discussion a lower priority item at a meeting in 2014.  Again, this is similar to the Pennsylvania AG's contention that Spanier and other PSU officials should have perfectly recalled two incidents that occurred over a decade prior.

People's memories simply aren't that reliable.

The remaining evidence against Simon is an excerpt of a statement she made to the police in 2016, as shown below:

Based on that excerpt, the AG's second charge against Simon boils down to semantics.

What did Simon mean when she said she was not aware of the "substance of that review, the nature of the complaint?"

It is likely we would know exactly what she meant if we saw the rest of her statement because in 2016, Simon, like the rest of us, learned that Nassar was found to possess child pornography and that there were many sexual abuse accusations lodged against him.

We know from the evidence that in 2014, the MSU Title IX investigation was based on a single complaint against Nassar.  We also know, from the evidence, that the MSU police were simultaneously investigating the complaint and that Nassar was cleared of wrong doing.

Just like Nassar did in 2004 with the Meridian Township police, he made the case that he was using a legitimate medical procedure.

What Simon knew about the "sports medicine doctor" in 2014 up until 2016 was that he was not guilty of sexual assault, but needed to better adhere to medical examination procedures.  Again, very similar to what Spanier and PSU knew about Sandusky in 1998.  Sandusky wasn't determined to be a criminal, just a person who exercised poor judgment by showering with boys from his charity after workouts.

None of the aforementioned facts matter in the court of public opinion, which is the venue of choice by Attorneys General who want to make a name for themselves by taking down a big target, like a president of a major university.

The jury pool has already been poisoned.

CYA and Blame Game

It is very likely none of us would have ever known that Spartan and USAG athletic trainer, Larry Nassar was a child molester had it not been for a stroke of good luck by the MSU police in late September 2016.  

In response to a complaint by Rachel Denhollander, campus police obtained a search warrant for Nassar's home, where they found discarded computer hard drives in his trash at his curb -- just before it was about to be hauled off to the landfill.  The hard drives were evaluated and child pornography found. As such, sexual intent was firmly established and that evaporated Nassar's argument that he was performing legitimate medical procedures. 

About one month later, MSU police asked the Michigan AG to assist in the investigation. 

In the Simon affidavit co-signed by AG special  prosecutor William Forsyth and MSU police Detective Sergeant William Arndt, they allege the former president lied to them and the impact of the alleged lies somehow prohibited them from bringing Nassar to justice in 2014 (see #20 below).

In addition, the affidavit alleges that Simon's alleged also impacted the scope and depth of their investigation into MSU's enabling of Nassar's victimization of women (see #23 below).

Both claims are nonsense and are nothing more than a CYA move.   If Simon's alleged lies caused an investigative failure, she should have been charged with obstructing justice.

She wasn't.

In 2014, MSU police knew more than Simon did about Nassar, including his identity and the detailed allegations from victim and former gymnast, Amanda Thomashow.   Their investigation lasted 16 months and, in the end, the prosecutors declined to file charges.

That investigation has been criticized by many.

According to police reports from Thomashow's investigation, the MSU police were basically taken in by Nassar's medical explanations, including four presentations, research papers, and ten videos of him performing the procedures.   In the end, MSU police recommended a fourth degree sexual assault charge that was nixed by prosecutors.

What didn't happen during that investigation?  Well, just like the 2009-2011 AG investigation of Sandusky, some rather logical steps weren't taken.
  • Search warrants weren't obtained for Nassar's home or office.
  • Current and former gymnasts who were treated by Nassar weren't interviewed.
  • Gymnastics coach Kathie Klages wasn't interviewed to determine if any gymnast had complained to her.  Her criminal charges are based on alleged lies to agents in 2016.
  • Athletic Director, Mark Hollis, wasn't interviewed to determine if there were allegations from other athletes, aside from gymnasts, about Nassar. 
  • Lansing police or other local law enforcement weren't contacted to determine if they ever received criminal complaints against Nassar.
Based on the evidence, the MSU police did far less investigating of Nassar in 2014 in over 16 months than the University Park (aka PSU) police did of Jerry Sandusky in one month in 1998.

The month long PSU police investigation of Sandusky in 1998 was conducted in conjunction with agents from Pennsylvania's child protective services (CPS) and local State College police.

The 1998 PSU investigation began when a mother complained to University police that Sandusky had showered with her son and he was emotionally disturbed by the incident.  During that investigation, police and CPS found that Sandusky was showered with a second child. He was also found to be stalking the first boy after being told to stay away from him.  When interviewed by police and CPS, Sandusky admitted to showering with other boys.

Email evidence from the investigation revealed that CPS wanted to "resolve the matter quickly." The police report shows that Jerry Lauro, the CPS agent who took over the case, called in an unlicensed counselor (John Seasock) to render an assessment if Sandusky had exhibited sexual intent.

Seasock's report was negative.

As a result, Pennsylvania CPS determined Sandusky was not a threat to children and that he was permitted to retain his license to work with children at his charity.

PSU police Detective Ronald Schreffler didn't share the same opinion as CPS.  He believed that Sandusky should have been charged with corruption of minors, at a minimum.  At the 2012 Sandusky trial, Schreffler testified he did not know why (now deceased) former DA Ray Gricar didn't file charges.  But in an earlier media interview, Schreffler opined that it would have been hard for Gricar to make the case given the CPS decision.

"It'd be a little hard for them to prosecute, when you have the state saying there wasn't any abuse." 

When PSU supporters point that out that there would have never been a 2001 incident at PSU had CPS done its job in 1998, they are crazily accused by the media and the public of blame shifting.

Blame shifting?

In reality, it is the state Attorney Generals who are doing the blame shifting in these cases.

For the most part, the state prosecutors want to make the biggest splash they can with a prosecution as many have aspirations for higher public office. 

Media Complicity

The AGs get away with this type of blame shifting because the media wants to write stories that take down highly visible individuals and institutions too.  Those stories garner national headlines. 

A story about some local level CPS agent, like Jerry Lauro, who screwed up in 1998 and is responsible for enabling the abuse of six additional Sandusky victims obviously didn't get nearly the attention that PSU officials did for the two children who were victimized after 2001.  In fact, the media went along with his patently false explanation that PSU did not show him psychology reports that were directly provided to CPS -- including the report of the evaluation he helped arrange.

In child sex abuse cases, media will chose a story that will drive public outrage against a high visibility official over a story that would point out the negligence of a government employee and could actually result in fixing problems in child protective services.   It's not even a contest.

As you  might expect, we do not know the names of the  Michigan CPS agents who ignored the reports they got about Nassar from Kyle Stephens. Conversely, name of every person at MSU, including lowly athletic trainers, who received a report from Nassar, are widely known.

The list of those at MSU who received a report about Larry Nassar's so-called treatments is quite long.  Comparatively, the list is much shorter at PSU with regard to Sandusky.

But that's not the only difference between the two cases.

Major Differences

As previously mentioned, many people at MSU received direct reports of sexual victimization from student athletes, some of whom were children (minors).  In contrast, PSU never received a direct report of sexual abuse from a victim nor were any of the victims student athletes or participants in University sponsored programs.

Next, there is no evidence that anyone in MSU athletics who received a direct report referred the matter up the chain to the Athletic Director (AD).     Conversely, both the 1998 and 2001 incidents involving Sandusky were referred to AD Timothy Curley. 

The sheer volume of crimes and victims of Larry Nassar is staggering -- and many to most of them were indecently assaulted on the East Lansing campus.   The number of Sandusky victims is much smaller and, according to the trial verdicts, almost half (3) of the boys victimized on the PSU campus were not indecently (physically) assaulted.

At MSU, the protocols in place for doctor-patient contact were violated and Nassar didn't follow corrective actions after 2014 in his examination of student athletes.  Conversely, PSU had no administrative control or legal means  to monitor Sandusky's access to children,  Sandusky accessed his victims through his charity, not through his coaching position at PSU.

In 1998 and 2001, PSU officials contacted external organizations with the legal authority and responsibility to limit or stop Sandusky from accessing victims.  That didn't happen at MSU with Larry Nassar. MSU employees not only didn't report up the chain of command, but none contacted an external organization (i.e., local police and/or CPS) to assist in addressing complaints.

Finally, MSU escaped harsh sanctions from the NCAA because the governing body of collegiate athletics ignored its constitution and by-laws and gave Simon's school a pass.  In the PSU case, the NCAA harshly sanctioned the athletics department by making up a phony rule.

While PSU didn't deserve punishment by the NCAA, MSU did.

Next:  The NCAA Let MSU Slide


  1. I think you are absolutely right that MSU should have been sanctioned by the NCAA because it involved athletes being abused. They likely wanted to stay clear because they got burned by their unwarranted sanctions against Penn State.

    The Nassar scandal just doesn't make the national news nearly as much as the Sandusky scandal likely because there was no big name football coach involved.

    I wonder if the new MI Attorney General, Democrat Dana Nessel, will want to carry this case forward given all the political retaliation by the GOP legislature.

    1. Tim,
      Thanks for your comments.

      You are exactly right. MSU should have been penalized via fine for the purposes of helping the Nassar survivors. Moreover, MSU should have had to put improvements in place -- and have to pay for their improvement plan to be monitored by the Michigan Auditor General, not some private law firm.

      I agree that the NCAA may have steered clear because Sandusky blew up in their faces. However, I also believe it showed favoritism because Simon was the former Chair of the EC.

      Given the public outrage generated from the case, the new AG is more or less forced to carry out the lame prosecution, just as former PA AG Kane let the PSU charges stand due to political pressure.