Former President of Michigan State University Lou Anna Simon was charged with two felony and two misdemeanor counts on Tuesday for allegedly lying to police during their investigation into how the school handled sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar, the doctor convicted of abusing scores of young women while employed by the university and USA Gymnastics.
According to the warrant, Simon purposefully concealed that she knew that the university’s Title IX office and police department had launched an investigation into a sexual assault complaint filed against Nassar in 2014, ESPN reported.
Nassar was eventually cleared of wrongdoing by the school but when asked by investigators about the case, Simon allegedly told police that she did not know the name of the sports medicine doctor involved.
“In fact she knew it was Larry Nassar who was the subject,” investigators said according to ESPN.
Nassar pleaded guilty earlier this year to federal child pornography charges and 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan state courts.
Simon, who has denied any criminal wrongdoing, could face up to four years in prison, according to the Associated Press. The 71-year-old is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday in Eaton County, Mich.
“The only crime committed is the criminal complaint,” Simon’s lawyer, Mayer Morganroth told The New York Times. “It is political and completely false and the responsible party will pay for it. Shame on them.”
Simon, resigned as university president under mounting pressure in January — the same day Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing more than 150 patients. “As Nassar’s legal journey to prison was drawing to a close, more and more negative attention was focused on Michigan State University, and on me,” Simon wrote in her resignation letter.
“As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger,” she added.
Despite stepping down she remained a member of the faculty as a “distinguished professor” and continued draw the $750,000 annual salary she had earned while at the helm of Michigan State. But following the charges, university spokeswoman Emily Guerrant told the AP Simon is taking an immediate unpaid leave of absence “to focus on her legal situation.”
Simon is the latest campus official to be criminally charged in the wake of Nassar’s convictions for molesting young female athletes over several decades, from at least 1992 until 2014. As the AP reported:
“In August, Schuette charged former MSU gymnastics head coach Kathie Klages with lying to an investigator when she denied that witnesses told her years ago about being sexually assaulted by Nassar. In March, the ex-dean of the osteopathic medicine school, William Strampel, was charged with neglecting his duty to enforce examining-room restrictions imposed on Nassar after the 2014 Title IX investigation.”
The fallout of Nassar’s crimes and the subsequent alleged attempts of cover ups or willful denials of abuse extend beyond Michigan State; USA Gymnastics officials have also been accused of “ignoring reports of Nassar’s extensive sexual abuse and actively working to hide it.”
Steve Penny, the former president of USA Gymnastics was arrested in October over allegations that he tampered with evidence related to a Nassar investigation. And earlier this month the U.S. Olympic Committee began the process of revoking USA Gymnastics’ status as the governing body for the sport.
In May the university agreed to pay $500 million to settle claims by hundreds of Nassar’s victims.