Advance Notice: Briefs

After MSU withholds Nassar documents, AG closes investigation

By: - March 29, 2021 1:29 pm

Michigan State University | Susan J. Demas

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Friday that Michigan State University (MSU) officials refusing voluntarily waive privilege to thousands of documents involving disgraced former Dr. Larry Nassar means her inquiry is complete. 

“We have used every legal mechanism available to us — including going to court — to secure the remaining documents needed for our investigation,” said Nessel through a statement. 

Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics and MSU doctor, abused more than 150 student athletes. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct and admitted to using his trusted medical position to assault young women under the guise of medical treatment. The following year, he was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.

“The university’s refusal to voluntarily provide them closes the last door available to finish our investigation,” Nessel added. “We’re incredibly disappointed that our work will end this way, especially for the survivors. We can only emphasize again that justice doesn’t begin and end at the courthouse doors. Principles of truth, fairness, and equity should be lights that guide all of our public institutions, especially our schools; and, when our universities refuse to lead, they miss the most important way they can teach.”

Last week, state Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.), Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.) and Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) led a bipartisan and bicameral coalition of 47 lawmakers who are calling on the MSU Board of Trustees to release documents related to the Nassar investigation.

The lawmakers and their colleagues sent a formal letter to the board of trustees, urging them to waive privilege on the documents and release them to Nessel. 

“Full transparency is essential to restoring public trust,” the letter reads. “We owe it to the survivors, families, students, faculty, employees, and the entire MSU community to have a full, transparent, and impartial investigation completed. You have the opportunity to ensure this happens.”

In a letter to the university community, MSU Board Dianne Byrum, a former longtime Democratic lawmaker, said Friday that it is important to maintain attorney-client privilege.

“The attorney-client privilege only applies to confidential communications by a client to its attorney that are made for the purpose of obtaining legal advice,” Byrum wrote. “It does not protect against the discovery of facts. Facts are not privileged.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.