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Michigan Sports

Larry Nassar-related case dismissed vs. ex-Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon

By ED WHITE
Associated Press
DETROIT — A judge dismissed criminal charges Wednesday against former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon, who was accused of lying to investigators in 2018 as they tried to learn what she knew years earlier about sexual assault complaints involving Larry Nassar.
Simon last year was ordered to trial in Eaton County, near Lansing. But Circuit Judge John Maurer tossed the case, saying a lower court judge had abused her discretion in finding enough evidence to keep the case going.
Nassar, who was a campus doctor, is serving decades in prison. Hundreds of women and girls, mostly gymnasts, said he molested them during visits for hip, back and leg injuries.
The charges against Simon centered on a 2018 interview with investigators who said they wanted to know what officials at the East Lansing school knew about Nassar.
Authorities alleged that Simon knew in 2014 that Nassar had been accused of molesting a patient at a campus clinic, and that she knew of the nature of the complaint.
But Simon insisted that she was aware only that a complaint had been filed against a sports doctor. She said she didn’t learn anything specific about Nassar until 2016.
Maurer reviewed transcripts from the seven-day hearing in District Court..
“The testimony and documentary evidence show … that no one remembers communicating with Dr. Simon about Dr. Nassar in 2014,” the judge said.
In his 24-page opinion, the judge criticized the veteran detectives who interviewed Simon, saying they repeatedly missed opportunities to clarify questions during their meeting, which occurred three months after she had abruptly resigned as MSU’s president.

Former Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon testifies before a Senate subcommittee in Washington on June 5, 2018. (AP file photo)
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Michigan Sports

NCAA sued over violence against women students by male college athletes

By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
The NCAA is facing a federal lawsuit accusing the organization of failing to address gender-based violence by male athletes against female students at colleges and universities.
Plaintiffs in the suit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Michigan, include women who have been athletes at Michigan State, Nebraska and an unidentified America East school. Other plaintiffs have been students at Michigan State or Nebraska.
“Defendants routinely issue harsh punishments against student-athletes who accept payments in exchange for use of their likenesses, or who accept free meals, but they have no specific penalty for student-athletes who commit sexual assault,” the suit says. “Defendants have repeatedly and persistently failed to take any meaningful action to mitigate the severe issue of sexual misconduct perpetrated by male student-athletes against women at their member institutions.”
A Nebraska spokeswoman said Thursday the school received a copy of the lawsuit against the NCAA and cannot comment on pending litigation. A message was left with the NCAA seeking comment.
A former track athlete at Michigan State, a former volleyball player at Nebraska and a swimmer at an America East school are among the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, fraud, breach of contract with student-athletes and breach of contract with non-student athletes.
The suit accuses a men’s track athlete at Michigan State of rape in 2017, and it accuses football players at Nebraska of rape in 2018 and 2019 and of nonconsensual groping in 2019. It also accuses a Nebraska athlete of rape in 2015, and a men’s basketball player at the America East school of rape in 2019.
The suit includes allegations of rape against three Michigan State basketball players in 2015. The woman who made those allegations spoke about them last year and filed a lawsuit in 2018.
The lawsuit against the NCAA alleges that after the female track athlete at Michigan State was raped by a member of the men’s team, she reported the rape to an assistant coach, who told her “if she pursued any claims against (the man), no one would like her, and that because (she) is ‘pretty,’ she would become a ‘distraction.’”
The suit says members of the men’s track team threatened her if she pursued charges. The suit says the woman was removed from the sprint squad so she would not be around the man she said raped her.
The female track athlete also filed her own suit against Michigan State. The school would not comment on the suit against the NCAA, while spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said it would be inappropriate to comment about the suit against MSU.
“That said, we take allegations of sexual misconduct and retaliation very seriously, and our Office of Institutional Equity reviews all allegations it receives,” she said. “In the last several years, MSU has taken significant steps to increase resources for survivors, to revise and to educate the campus community on our policies, as well as to further its prevention efforts.”

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Michigan Sports

Michigan State defends men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo and staff against witness report

EAST LANSING (AP) — Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman defended basketball coach Tom Izzo on Thursday after Izzo was accused in an ESPN report of contacting a witness who was part of a 2017 criminal sexual conduct investigation involving one of his players.
According to a police report obtained by ESPN, Michigan State student Brayden Smith was with basketball player Brock Washington on the night a female student said Washington forcibly groped her. When police interviewed Smith, he said he had already been contacted by Izzo and assistant coaches Dwayne Stephens and Mike Garland. They “asked (Smith) if he was OK and if there was anything that he had seen during the evening,” according to the report.
Beekman responded in a lengthy statement Thursday.
“Tom Izzo has been a beacon of integrity in his profession for nearly four decades, including a quarter century as head coach. Michigan State’s Office of Institutional Equity has gone on record to say that no policies were violated in regards to any actions taken by the men’s basketball staff during a Title IX investigation into a student,” Beekman said. “There’s nothing to support any claims that any member of the men’s basketball staff conducted their own investigation, or interfered with any ongoing investigation. Any insinuation to the contrary is nothing more than an attempt to smear a coach, a program, and an entire university.”
Smith, the son of former Michigan State player Steve Smith, doesn’t play basketball for the Spartans. According to a Title IX report obtained by ESPN, Brayden Smith told investigators he considers the coaches his “godfathers” who check in on him occasionally.
According to ESPN, police said in their report that Brayden Smith’s perception of his conversation with the coaches about the night in question “was not to get information out of him, but rather to ensure that he was OK and remind him to be responsible.”
The school’s Title IX investigation determined that Washington was not responsible for having violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy, according to ESPN. The network also reported that in early 2018, Washington pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault under a provision allowing offenders to plead guilty without a court entering a judgment of conviction.
Earlier this week, ESPN reported that campus police told prosecutors they had probable cause that Brock Washington raped a woman Jan. 19 while she was too intoxicated to consent.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo pleads with official Eric Curry during a Big 10 game against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., on Feb. 20. (AP file photo)
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo reacts during the second half against Iowa on Feb. 25 in East Lansing. (AP file photo)
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Michigan Sports

Michigan State University claims immunity from Larry Nassar sexual assault liability claims

EAST LANSING (AP) — Michigan State University is asking a judge to dismiss a second wave of lawsuits related to former sports doctor Larry Nassar, even as the school says it’s working to reach a deal with additional assault victims.
MSU defended itself in a court filing Monday, declaring it’s immune from liability for Nassar’s crimes.
Nassar has been sentenced to decades in prison for sexually assaulting athletes, mostly female gymnasts, at MSU and a Lansing-area gymnastics club. Former Olympians said he also molested them in Texas and overseas while he worked for USA Gymnastics.
“Although Nassar’s actions were repugnant and merit the heavy criminal penalties imposed upon him, the law does not support plaintiffs’ attempts to hold the MSU defendants liable for his wrongs,” lawyers for the school said, citing immunity and a statute of limitations, among other defenses.
MSU last year agreed to a $500 million deal with Nassar’s accusers. Most of the money, $425 million, was for 333 people, mostly women and girls, who had already sued. MSU so far has settled with 72 people in the second wave of litigation but dozens remain.
Spokeswoman Emily Guerrant told the Detroit Free Press that the school was under a court order to reply to the lawsuits. But she also said there were “active settlement negotiations.”
But an attorney for the victims, Donna MacKenzie, said the court filing was unfortunate.
“MSU should be ashamed by the way it continues to represent to the public that it cares about settlement and healing, while at the same time paying their lawyers thousands of dollars to aggressively defend and file motions to dismiss the survivors’ claims in court,” MacKenzie said.

Larry Nassar, a former doctor for USA Gymnastics and member of Michigan State’s sports medicine staff, sits in court during his sentencing hearing in Lansing on Jan. 24, 2018. MSU is defending itself against a second wave of lawsuits related to Nassar but says it wants to reach a deal with the additional assault victims. MSU defended itself in a court filing Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. It says it’s immune to liability for Nassar’s crimes, no matter how “repugnant.” (AP file photo)
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Michigan Sports

Ex-Michigan State University basketball star Mateen Cleaves acquitted in sexual assault

FLINT (AP) — A jury acquitted former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves on Tuesday of allegations he sexually assaulted a woman in a motel room four years ago.
The verdict announced in a Genesee County courtroom in Cleaves’ hometown of Flint came after a nearly-two week trial that included the testimony of the Mount Morris woman, who told jurors that she had wanted to leave the motel room but Cleaves continued to force himself on her.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for a little more than two hours before delivering its verdict. Cleaves sobbed after the last of four not-guilty verdicts was read.
“Thank you for giving me my life back,” Cleaves said.
Juror Michael Lambert said the verdict came quickly after he and other jurors concluded Cleaves’ accuser wasn’t believable.
Evidence against Cleaves, 41, included a video that prosecutors contended showed the woman pulling away from Cleaves. Prosecutors argued she tried twice to escape from the motel room.
Cleaves is a revered figure in Michigan, an integral part of a Michigan State team that won the national championship in 2000 before his six-year NBA career.
And on Tuesday, sitting in a courtroom was another reminder of that team: Spartans head coach Tom Izzo.

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Michigan Sports

Michigan State Universrity agrees to protect patients from sexual assault or face consequences in deal with federal agency

By DAVID EGGERT
Associated Press
LANSING — Michigan State University has agreed to better protect patients from sexual assaults, including following a chaperone requirement for sensitive medical exams, to resolve a federal civil-rights investigation into Larry Nassar’s abuse of young gymnasts and other athletes under the guise of medical treatment.
The three-year agreement announced Monday is the first one struck under a section of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits discrimination in certain health care programs or activities, said Roger Severino, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. The deal covers not only students under Title IX but also patients who are not students.
The university and two associated entities — MSU HealthTeam and MSU Health Care Inc. — will require that a second health team member be present at sensitive medical exams. The school previously instituted a chaperone requirement in 2017 in the wake of the scandal involving its former sports doctor, Nassar, and his abuse of hundreds of girls and women, but Severino said it now must comply or face consequences.
“It’s one thing for an institution that has failed repeatedly to police itself to say that they’re going to do better this time compared to the federal government (which has) the ability to strip federal funds in case of repeated noncompliance,” Severino said.
He added that federal officials will be monitoring closely, which is a key difference. He said the Office for Civil Rights opened the probe on its own about eight months ago and not in response to a complaint.
When sensitive exams are conducted, patients will be given an appropriate gown, privacy to dress and undress, and sensitive draping to maximize their privacy. The university and the health entities also will revise their nondiscrimination notices and sexual misconduct policies, improve their processes for investigating and resolving complaints, conduct all-staff training and report twice a year to the Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.
University President Samuel Stanley Jr. said the revisions recommended by federal officials “further enhance the many protection and policy improvements MSU has made since Nassar’s arrest.” He said those include the school’s own version of a chaperone policy as well as a protocol to review all reported allegations of inappropriate interactions between practitioners and patients. The university also will add investigators to handle grievances and complaints, he said.
“We must always look for ways to do more for those who trust the university with their health and safety,” Stanley said in a statement.
Separate investigations of Michigan State’s handling of complaints against Nassar, which the U.S. Department of Education is leading, are expected to end “in the near future,” said spokeswoman Liz Hill.

Larry Nassar listens during his sentencing at Eaton County Circuit Court in downstate Charlotte on Feb. 5, 2018. (AP file photo)
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Michigan Sports

Gold medalist Simone Biles still upset with USA Gymnastics for not keeping gymnasts safe

By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The mix of rage, disappointment and grief are still there. Just under the surface.
And while Simone Biles tries to stay focused on the healing process more than 18 months after the Olympic gymnastics champion revealed she was among the hundreds of athletes abused by disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar, there are times when the massive systemic breakdown that allowed Nassar’s behavior to run unchecked for years becomes too much.
“It hits you like a train wreck,” Biles said Wednesday as she prepared for the U.S. championships.
One that leaves the greatest gymnast of her generation and the face of the U.S. Olympic movement ahead of the 2020 Games in a difficult spot.
She still loves competing, pushing herself and the boundaries of her sport in the process.
And yet the 22-year-old still finds herself working under the banner of USA Gymnastics and by extension the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Both organizations were called out by Congress along with the FBI last week in a scathing report that detailed a series of catastrophic missteps that allowed Nassar — a longtime trainer with USA Gymnastics as well as Michigan State University — to continue to abuse patients even after athletes started questioning his methods in the summer of 2015.
While Nassar is now behind bars for the rest of his life and USA Gymnastics has undergone a massive overhaul in leadership since the 2016 Olympics as it fights to retain its status as the sport’s national governing body, the scars remain fresh for Biles, though she knows that doesn’t make her different from the other women who were abused by Nassar under the guise of treatment.
“I don’t mean to cry,” the typically poised Biles said through tears two days before attempting to win her sixth national title. “But it’s hard coming here for an organization having had them failed us so many times. And we had one goal and we’ve done everything that they’ve asked us for, even when we didn’t want to and they couldn’t do one damn job. You had one job. You literally had one job and you couldn’t protect us.”
Biles is in therapy to help deal with the emotional fallout, well aware that progress will be slow and that a full recovery might not be possible.
“Everyone’s healing process is different and I think that’s the hardest part,” she said. “Because I feel like maybe I should be healed or this or that. But I feel like it will be an open wound for a really long time and it might not ever get closed or healed.”
So Biles is doing what she can, trying to find a balance between her pursuit to become the first woman in more than 50 years to repeat as Olympic champion while using her status as the face of her sport to effect change.
“When we tweet, it obviously goes a long way,” she said. “We’re blessed to be given a platform so that people will hear and listen. But you know, it’s not easy coming back to the sport. Coming back to the organization that has failed you. But you know, at this point, I just try to think, ‘I’m here as a professional athlete with my club team and stuff like that.’ Because it’s not easy being out here. I feel every day is a reminder of what I went through and what I’ve been through and what I’m going through and how I’ve come out of it.”

Simone Biles performs on the balance beam in the women’s all-around final in the Gymnastics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 1. (AP file photo)
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Michigan Sports

Heat takes Michigan State University mascot Sparty out of parades

EAST LANSING (AP) — Michigan State University says the school’s Sparty mascot will no longer participate in most parades due to concerns about heat stroke or other health issues for those wearing the costume.
School spokeswoman Emily Guerrant says in an email the MSU Alumni Office made the decision “due to health concerns for Sparty and his team.”
Guerrant tells the Lansing State Journal the policy is “still in development” and is expected to be re-evaluated later this year. She says there have been no near-death experiences for students who have worn the Sparty suit at parades, but there were concerns some “pushed themselves too hard” in hot weather.
The newspaper says Sparty still is expected to participate in MSU’s annual fall Homecoming Parade in East Lansing unless the weather conditions pose health risks.