Investigators believe former Michigan State University president Lou Anna K. Simon lied to law enforcement officers during their investigation into how the school handled complaints about disgraced former doctor Larry Nassar.
Simon was charged Tuesday with two felony counts and two misdemeanor counts of lying to the Michigan State Police, crimes that could land her in prison for a maximum of four years if she is convicted. A Michigan State spokeswoman said the university was aware of the charges and that Simon took an immediate leave of absence without pay this week "to focus on her legal situation."
She served as the university president for 13 years before resigning under pressure the day Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing his patients, many of them on Michigan State's campus. She moved into an emeritus role and remained on faculty with an on-campus office after her resignation.
Shortly after Simon's resignation, the state's attorney general appointed a special investigator to look into what officials at Michigan State knew about Nassar's crimes. The warrant for Simon's arrest says she knowingly made false statements to the state police when asked whether she was aware of any investigation involving Nassar before 2016.
The school's Title IX office and the university police department both investigated a sexual assault complaint made about Nassar in 2014 and cleared him of wrongdoing. Simon allegedly told police she was aware in 2014 that "there was a sports medicine doc who was subject to review." Investigators say "in fact she knew it was Larry Nassar who was the subject," according to the warrant.
One of the attorneys representing Simon said the charges brought against her are "totally false" and "strictly political."
"In a final analysis, they'll pay for it," said Detroit-based attorney Mayer Morganroth. When asked to clarify what he meant by that comment, he said, "I'll take care of that. You figure it out, but they'll pay for it."
Simon is the third Michigan State official charged with crimes as a result of the investigation. Former gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was charged in August with lying to police. William Strampel, Nassar's former boss as dean of the osteopathic medicine school, was charged in March with neglect of duty, along with other crimes that weren't related to Nassar's conduct. Both Klages and Strampel resigned from their positions at Michigan State prior to being charged with those crimes.
Several survivors of Nassar's abuse criticized Simon for what they say was a defensive and "callous" reaction as the details of what happened on Michigan State's campus came to light throughout 2016 and 2017. In her resignation this past January, Simon blamed her forced departure on the tragedy being "politicized."
A representative from the Michigan attorney general's office said Simon is scheduled to be arraigned Monday. The representative said the attorney general's office had no further comment on the charges against Simon or the status of the investigation.
Lindsey Lemke, a former Michigan State gymnastics captain and a survivor of Nassar's abuse, said the charges against Simon are "another stepping stone" toward holding accountable all of the people who enabled Nassar.
"Lou Anna Simon's arrest comes as no surprise to me," Lemke said in a prepared statement. "It has been very clear that she has always tried to hide from this situation and only protect herself and now we know why."
U.S. Senators Jerry Moran and Richard Blumenthal, who are in charge of the subcommittee investigating how the Nassar case was handled, issued a statement saying Simon's main desire was to protect herself.
"The charges brought against Lou Anna Simon today illustrate her desire to first and foremost protect her own position and institution, even when it came in direct conflict with doing right by Michigan State athletes in the wake of repeated abuse claims at the hands of Larry Nassar."