Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says she might be forced to close the investigation into Michigan State University and Larry Nassar if the university does not release approximately 6,000 documents to investigators.
MSU requested that then-attorney general Bill Schuette's office investigate in 2018. The university's board of trustees says the contents of the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege, and has withheld them from investigators for over two years.
Nessel sent a letter to the MSU Board of Trustees on Wednesday, stressing the importance of those documents. She wrote, "You will have shut the door on the pursuit of justice. I cannot think of a worse conclusion to the investigation—which this Board asked for—than that."
In a press conference on Thursday, Nessel expressed frustrations that her repeated requests had been denied.
"There are no legal avenues remaining that would allow us to secure these documents, absent MSU's decision to voluntarily produce them. And I find it unconscionable that the university would stonewall the very investigation it requested. Nonetheless, that is where we find ourselves. MSU’s refusal to comply with my request will leave me with no choice but to close this investigation in a manner that provides no real closure or justice to the people who deserve it."
When asked if a public pressure campaign was the way to go, Nessel did not seem optimistic. She said MSU had not responded to any avenue, legal or otherwise, up to this point.
"One of the things that I’ve heard multiple times that bothers me is board members who have said they've reviewed the documents and they don’t think there’s anything new or anything helpful to our investigation. And with all due respect, I would say this: how would you possibly know that?" she said. "Without knowing the entirety of our investigation, and all of the many witnesses that were interviewed and the thousands and thousands of pages of documents outside of these particular documents, that we looked at, you can't possibly know that by reviewing it yourself. Only our team will be able to say whether or not those documents shed more light onto potentially other actors or other potential charges."
New trustees were elected to the board in 2020. Nessel says she wants those trustees to be able to discuss the issue before she definitively closes the investigation.
"I think they should be given an opportunity to meet, but after their next board meeting, if they have made the decision to commit to retaining these documents and not disclosing them to our investigators, I think it's only appropriate." She added, "We can't leave investigations open indefinitely. It's been years, at this point. We've made multiple requests, over and over, and we've always been met with resistance. This is our final ask."
The roughly 6,000 documents in question are, according to the Board of Trustees, legal discussions. The documents could also play a role in a legal case involving the university's insurance for sexual assault.
In a statement, Chair of the Board of Trustees Dianne Byrum said, "The MSU Board of Trustees has received the letter from the attorney general’s office and we plan to discuss the issue further in the coming weeks."