Former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon allegedly lied to police while they were investigating former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, the Attorney General’s office confirmed on Tuesday.
Simon, who was the University’s president for 14 years, was charged at Eaton County Court in Michigan on Tuesday with two felony counts of lying to a peace officer in a violent-crime investigation, and two misdemeanor counts of lying to a peace officer, the attorney general’s officer said.
If convicted, the 59-year-old could spend up to four years in jail.
She is the fourth person to be charged by the attorney general’s office in its investigation against Michigan State University and its doctor-turned-convicted sex abuser Larry Nassar.
“Lou Anna Simon arrest comes as no surprise to me. I has been very clear that she has always tried to hide from this situation and only protect herself and now we know why,” Lindsey Lemke, a former gymnast at Michigan State University who was abused by Nassar, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “She knew all along that Nassar should have been treating us but yet she chose not to do the right thing and continued to employ Nassar at Michigan State.”
Michigan State Police investigators alleged that while questioning the former president in May about whether she knew of past investigations concerning Nassar, Simon claimed she was only aware of a “sports medicine doctor” that was the subject of a Title IX investigation in 2014, but not who it was specifically—a claim police now say is untrue.
“When asked about whether she was aware of any investigation involving Larry Nassar prior to 2016 she falsely or misleadingly said that ‘I was aware that in 2014 there was a sports medicine doc who was subject to a review’ when in fact she knew it was Larry Nassar who was the subject of the 2014 MSU Title IX investigation,” the charging document said.
Simon stepped down as MSU president after public pressure on January 24, just hours after Nassar was sentenced 40 to 175 years after pleading guilty to seven counts of sexual assault of minors. In all, Nassar has been accused of molesting at least 250 underage girls and 1 young man, including several well-known Olympic gymnasts.
For Lemke, the charges against the former university president are personal, as she confronted Simon during Nassar’s sentencing, in which the gymnast gave a statement about her former doctor who had sexually abused her since she was 10 years old.
In her court statement, Lemke described how Nassar used to penetrate her vagina while treating her injuries, which the young gymnast assumed was a legitimate medical procedure until she learned other patients filed criminal complaints against the doctor two years ago.
“[Simon] had no answers, she didn’t know who I was, and she proved that she was unfit to be in a position she was in,” Lemke said. “Her arrest is another stepping stone in this case as there are more and more enablers being held accountable.”
She continued: “This is not the end. We are not backing down until all enablers are held accountable for their poor actions.”
Emily Guerrant, an MSU spokesperson, said in a statement on Tuesday that the university is "aware of the charges brought today against former President Simon."
“She is taking an immediate leave of absence, without pay, to focus on her legal situation,” Guerrant told The Daily Beast about Simon, who still a tenured professor at the university, though she declined to give any more information.
Simon’s person attorney, Lee Silver, did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
The former MSU employee and gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, abused hundreds of young girls under the ruse of medical practice. In 2014, he was the subject of a Title IX complaint, the same complaint Simon lied to investigations about, but was ultimately cleared to continue treating patients for another two years, when victims began to come forward.
Nassar, who pleaded guilty in three separate criminal trials that combined carries a maximum prison sentence of 300 years, is currently serving out his federal time in a Florida jail.
In addition to two sexual assault trials, the disgraced doctor was also sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges, including receipt and attempted receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography, and destruction and concealment of records and tangible objects.
The Michigan Attorney General's Office announced its investigation into the University's handling of sexual assault allegations against Nassar in January, amid two sentencing hearings.
Along with Simon, William Strampel, former dean of osteopathic medicine and one of Nassar's former bosses, former MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages, former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny, and former USGA trainer Debbie Van Horn have all been charged in the investigation for their role in facilitating or covering up Nassar’s conduct.
Strampel and Klages are are awaiting trial in Ingham County Circuit Court, the attorney general’s office confirmed.