LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Attorney General Bill Schuette is promising a full and complete investigation “from the president’s office down” of Michigan State University’s handling of the Larry Nassar sex abuse case.
Schuette held a news conference Saturday providing an update on his investigation into “systemic issues with sexual misconduct at Michigan State University.”
“Let’s be very clear. No individual and no department at Michigan State University is off-limits,” he said. “We will put a bright light at every corner of the university. This will be done right, period.”
The university’s board of trustees requested Schuette’s investigation last week. In a letter, the board said that only a review by Schuette’s office would provide transparency in answering “the questions in a way that the victims, their families, and the public will deem satisfactory and that will help all those affected by Nassar’s horrible crimes to heal.”
Schuette addressed the board’s letter, saying he doesn’t need advice on how to conduct an investigation. He also called on the board to have their independent investigator, Patrick Fitzgerald, turn over all materials related to his probe.
“I don’t need advice from the board of trustees at MSU about how to conduct an investigation. Frankly, they should be the last ones to be providing advice given their conduct throughout this entire episode. Their conduct throughout this entire episode speaks for itself,” he said. “Their response to this simple request will speak volumes about MSU’s willingness to cooperate in this investigation. Conversely, their failure to do so will also speak volumes.”
Schuette said his investigators will speak with every victim in the case. Several of the 150-plus victims who spoke at the sentencing hearing were former athletes at the school, and many victims accused the university of mishandling past complaints about Nassar, a former university employee who molesting young girls and women under the guise of medical treatment. He was sentenced this week up to 175 years in prison.
“My department in this investigation will find out who knew what and when, who took action, who failed to take action, what did or did not happen and what should have happened,” Schuette said.
Schuette named Special Prosecutor Bill Forsyth to handle the investigation. Forsyth said he’s never seen anything of this scope in his 42 years of work as a prosecutor. He has several questions about the case, including why and how no one stopped “this predator” for almost 20 years. Forsyth said he’ll look at rules and regulations at Michigan State to see why they didn’t protect the victims — and if there are holes in the rules, he’ll make recommendations how to fix them.
The university is currently facing lawsuits from more than 130 victims.
In a recent filing, Michigan State asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuits on technical grounds. The school says it has immunity under state law and that the majority of victims were not MSU students at the time of the alleged assaults.
The board last month authorized the creation of a $10 million fund to offer victims counseling and mental health services.
A Title IX probe conducted by the university cleared Nassar of sexual assault allegations in 2014. He was advised by the school to avoid being alone with patients while treating their “sensitive areas,” but the school did not follow up on and enforce its request.
At least 12 reported assaults occurred after the investigation ended, according to a university police report that was provided to the FBI for review by the U.S. attorney.
Meantime, Gov. Rick Snyder said Friday he is mulling an inquiry into the university, depending on whether it would interfere with other investigations such as the attorney general’s. Under the state constitution, the governor can remove or suspend public officers for “gross neglect of duty,” corruption or “other misfeasance or malfeasance.”
“The governor hasn’t seen enough done for the survivors after everything they’ve gone through,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said. “He wants to make sure that something is being done.”
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos confirmed Friday that her agency is also investigating the Nassar scandal. She said in a statement that what happened at the school is “abhorrent” and “cannot happen ever again — there or anywhere.”
The Education Department was already reviewing separate complaints about the school’s compliance with Title IX, the law that requires public schools to offer equal opportunities to both genders, and compliance with requirements about providing campus crime and security information.
The school resisted calls for an independent investigation before asking Schuette for a review a week ago.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.