Michigan State to Release Thousands of Nassar Docs, Nessel Reopens Investigation

Board of Trustees last week agreed to release documents for the state’s investigation into sexual abuse by ex-Olympic and MSU doctor Larry Nassar.

Survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse, along with some of their parents react to the Michigan State University Board of Trustees voting unanimously to release documents the school has withheld from the state attorney general for years for its investigation into Nassar’s abuse on Dec. 15. (Anna Liz Nichols)

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After years of requests from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office for Michigan State University to release documents for the state’s investigation into sexual abuse by ex-Olympic and MSU doctor Larry Nassar, university leadership agreed on Friday to release several thousand documents to the office.

“I started all this when I was a freshman in high school and now I’m a junior in college,” Elizabeth Maurer, a survivor of Nassar’s abuse, said after the MSU Board of Trustees unanimously voted to review and release the requested documents.

Maurer recounted all the conversations, meetings and public calls for transparency it took to get the “sister survivors” to this moment. “That’s a lot of transitional years and I’ve spent a lot of those years fighting for what I believe is right in regards to my trauma and my case. … I always knew that something was there that they didn’t want us to see and so I knew in order to be able to see it we were going to have to be vocal and outspoken and have to fight our way to see it.”

Although the board voted to review and release the requested documents, trustees said the university reserves the right to redact parts of what it sends to Attorney General Dana Nessel.

“No redactions!” Valerie von Frank, a parent of a Nassar survivor, exclaimed alongside comments of disapproval from other parents and survivors.

Nassar is currently serving essentially three life sentences on child pornography charges, as well as several charges of criminal sexual conduct across three courts, with many of the over 150 women and girls telling a Lansing court in January 2018 that Nassar abused them in his capacity as a physician at MSU.

Due to the university claiming attorney-client privilege on the documents, Nessel ended the state’s investigation into what leadership and employees at MSU may have known about the abuse over the years in 2021.

Nessel said at the time, “The university’s refusal to voluntarily provide them closes the last door available to finish our investigation. … We’re incredibly disappointed that our work will end this way, especially for the survivors.”

After Friday’s vote, Nessel announced a reversal of that decision, saying in a statement that the investigation is reopened and will be expedited.

“The students, the MSU community at-large, and most importantly, the victims of Larry Nassar have long been owed this transparency,” Nessel said. “I am encouraged to see the MSU Board of Trustees finally make the right decision on a long-promised, and long-delayed, measure of transparency.”

Ahead of the vote to release the documents, Melissa Hudecz, a survivor of Nassar’s abuse, addressed the Michigan State University Board of Trustees

“This is a very significant moment, it is difficult to come up here and continue to watch things go wrong at MSU if these documents aren’t released, if don’t have transparency, if we can’t trust the Board of Trustees then what was the point of everything we’ve been through as sisters,” Hudecz said.

Having to come to trustee meeting after trustee meeting, marching on the administration building and creating awareness for sexual violence on MSU campus, “has been it’s own form of Hell,” said von Frank, a founder of POSSE (Parents of Sister Survivors Engage).

“Having to beg for people to do what’s right is just not the right thing and people with a conscience and a soul should have recognized years ago that we shouldn’t have had to go through that. We shouldn’t have had to beg them for this,” von Frank said. “This is so personal to us. This is for my baby girl, Grace, and my other babies all standing here and for all of them that weren’t able to be here.”

The Attorney General’s Office’s fight to get the documents and bring closure to survivors of Nassar’s abuse has spanned two attorneys general, with former Attorney General Bill Schuette, who oversaw the state prosecution of Nassar and opened the office’s investigation, sharing his thoughts in a statement Friday.

“It’s been a long wait, one challenging for the Sister Survivors, but the MSU Board of Trustees have finally released the important documents I asked for in 2018 concerning the horrific behavior of Larry Nassar. I and my team, led by Angie Povilaitis, put Larry Nassar behind bars and the release of these files is an important step forward towards an open and transparent review of the actions within MSU,” Schuette said.

Although Nassar is in prison and there have been multiple prosecutions by the attorney general against employees at the university due to the investigation, Danielle Moore, a survivor of Nassar’s abuse and also board member of The Army of Survivors, said MSU needs to learn from everything that happened to better protect those who come to campus from sexual violence.

“Institutions need to learn from their mistakes so they don’t repeat the pattern and so [other] institutions don’t also don’t repeat the pattern,” Moore said.

Fellow sister survivor Angelika Martinez-McGhee shared that when she was scrolling through her Instagram on Friday, she realized that she was also at the Hannah Administration Building, where the board typically meets, two years ago.

“Throughout all of this time, it’s the showing up and being present that has really pushed this along. I think if we weren’t as vocal and just being there in person, I don’t think we would have gotten this far without demanding it,” Martinez-McGhee said.

Martinez-McGhee extended her thanks to students at MSU and alumni who supported survivors today and at meetings and gatherings in the past.

Today is a victory, the survivors and parents that gathered on campus said, although they aren’t sure what caused the board to change its mind after withholding the documents year after year. Also, without a concrete timeline of when MSU would give the attorney general the documents and knowing that the university could again withhold information from the investigation, they said there could still be a fight ahead.

Hudecz said she and her sister survivors are ready to keep pushing.

“I just really hope that the people who said yes today are saying yes to seeing this all the way through, the right way,” Hudecz said.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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