On Friday morning, Michigan special prosecutor William Forsyth released a withering report, which you can read here, about Michigan State’s handling of years of sexual assault complaints against Larry Nassar. In the report, Forsyth blames MSU’s “culture of indifference and institutional protection” for the eventual scope of Nassar’s sexual abuse.
Forsyth interviewed 550 people during the course of his investigation, and he ripped MSU for severely mishandling its own investigation and prioritizing institutional well-being over discovering the truth. This failure was so profound, Forsyth maintains, that he fears it will be “virtually impossible to know exactly what happened at MSU during the Nassar years.” He continued, “For as long as MSU frustrates the search for the truth, we will never be fully confident that we have it.”
One key part of Forsyth’s excoriation of MSU centers around their withholding of key documents; MSU has continued to fight a court order requiring them to give over information. According to Forsyth’s statement, MSU withheld or redacted 7,651 relevant documents, which is five times the amount that MSU attorneys initially claimed were being withheld. MSU eventually released around one thousand relevant documents before a judge formally ordered them to, though a review showed that MSU was still holding onto another 177 key documents. Forsyth characterized it as “[circling] the wagons.”
The meat of Forsyth’s update is a report on 13 of the 280 survivors that investigators interviewed, and the specific ways their accounts of their abuse to MSU staffers were ignored. The overwhelming response by the MSU employees who were told of Nassar’s abuse was to “[downplay] its seriousness or affirmatively [discourage] the survivors from proceeding with their allegation.”
“That so many survivors independently disclosed to so many different MSU employees over so many years, each time with no success, reveals a problem that cannot be explained as mere isolated, individual failures; it is evidence of a larger cultural problem at the MSU Sports Medicine Clinic and MSU more broadly.”
Forsyth lists 11 Michigan State employees who were told of Nassar’s sexual abuse and failed to properly report it; they include MSU professor and psychologist Dr. Gary Stollak, MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages, athletic trainer Heena Shah Trivedi, MSU track coach Kelli Bert, athletic trainer Lianna Hadden, Dr. Brooke Lemmen (who was told by a survivor that Nassar’s abuse made her bleed), MSU sports psychiatrist Dr. Lionel Rosen (who “expressed no concern, telling [the victim] that Nassar was only doing what was best for her”), and MSU athletic trainer David Jager.
MSU’s Kristine Moore conducted a famously ineffective Title IX investigation in 2014, which Forsyth wrote was so defined by deference to authority that it “produced catastrophic results.” Moore’s failings included interviewing only doctors and specialists close to Nassar as well as improperly conveying the specific allegation that led to the 2014 investigation. “There is no evidence that she conducted the investigation in bad faith or consciously arrived at a predetermined result,” Forsyth wrote. She simply conducted it in a spectacularly wrongheaded way.