Michigan's attorney general announced Saturday that an independent special prosecutor will lead the state's "ongoing investigation into what the heck is happening at Michigan State University," after the sentencing this week of its former sports physician, Larry Nassar, for repeated sexual assault of girls and young women.
Attorney General Bill Schutte told a press conference in Lansing the investigation would study "who knew what and when, who took action, who failed to take action, what did or did not happen and what should have happened."
He announced Bill Forsyth, a local prosecutor with 42 years experience, will serve as the independent special prosecutor.
Nassar was sentenced to 40-74 years behind bars on Wednesday for sexually abusing young female athletes under the pretense of medical "treatment."
He worked for nearly 30 years as a sports doctor at MSU and USA Gymnastics, with multiple women saying during the hearing that they had reported Nassar's abuse to the university.
On Friday, ESPN published a report which revealed MSU's mistreatment of sexual assault cases went beyond its handling of Nassar.
An investigation published by the Detroit News last week reported that at least 14 MSU officials were told about Nassar's sexual misconduct and eight women at the school who reported he abused them. According to the report, former MSU women's gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was told by a 16-year-old high school student in 1997 that Nassar had sexually assaulted her — almost 20 years before he was fired from the school and put on trial.
Klages retired last year amid a wave of allegations against Nassar. She declined to be interviewed by the Detroit News.
At Saturday's press conference, Forsyth also spoke critically of the university, saying he would did not need any advice from the MSU Board of Trustees regarding the investigation.
"Frankly they should be the last ones providing advice given their conduct throughout this entire episode," he said.
Detroit News also reported that MSU President Lou Anna Simon was notified in 2014 about a Title IX complaint and a police report on a physician at the school, and that athletic trainers, assistant coaches, a university police officer, and an official who is now MSU’s assistant general counsel all heard the allegations.
"I was informed that a sports medicine doctor was under investigation,” Simon told the Detroit News last week. "I told people to play it straight up, and I did not receive a copy of the report. That’s the truth."
MSU President Simon resigned on Wednesday over criticism of her handling of the Nassar abuse.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association sent a letter of inquiry into how MSU handled the case of Larry Nassar on Tuesday.
"The NCAA has sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State University regarding potential NCAA rules violations related to the assaults Larry Nassar perpetrated against girls and young women, including some student-athletes at Michigan State," the NCAA said in a statement to BuzzFeed News Tuesday night. "We will have no further comment at this time."
MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis said in a statement Wednesday that his focus "has always been on the student-athlete" since his "first day on the job" and that athletes "are at the core of our athletic department mission statement."
“Our first priority has always been and will always be their health and safety," Hollis said. "In regards to the letter we received from the NCAA last night, the athletic compliance and university general counsel offices are preparing a comprehensive response. Michigan State University will cooperate with any investigation.”
Hollis then resigned on Friday.
More than 140 gymnasts and other athletes have come forward this month to read statements at a sentencing hearing for Nassar, who has pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct for molesting young athletes under the guise of medical treatment. He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal child pornography charges in July.
Texas authorities said earlier on Tuesday that they are investigating the former USA Gymnastics training center, Karolyi Ranch, for its involvement with Nassar.
In addition to members of the USA Gymnastics team, several former MSU athletes from the school's gymnastics, volleyball, rowing, softball, and track and field programs have spoken at Nassar's hearing, detailing their own stories of his abuse.
As the regulatory body for intercollegiate athletics, the NCAA oversees sports programs at more that 1,000 institutions. Its bylaws state that "it is the responsibility of each member institution to protect the health of and provide a safe environment for each of its participating student-athletes."
MSU has been accused of botching its 2014 Title IX investigation into Nassar by relying on medical experts who had close ties to the doctor. The investigation cleared Nassar of wrongdoing after concluding that the women accusing him did not understand the "nuanced difference" between sexual assault and an appropriate medical procedure.
MSU fired Nassar in September 2016 after the Indianapolis Star published an investigation into the sexual assault allegations against him.
Ferguson laughed at the idea that NCAA would investigate the school.
"This is not Penn State," he said, referencing the 2011 case involving Jerry Sandusky, a longtime assistant football coach who was found to have sexually abused young boys for years. "They were dealing with their football program."
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
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Amber Jamieson is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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