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I’m innocent — just ask my lawyer

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Of all the sickening little moments in Lou Anna Simon’s disgusting resignation letter, I want to linger on this one:

I am pleased that statements have been made by Mr. Fitzgerald and Board members about my integrity and the fact that there is no cover-up.

“Mr. Fitzgerald,” is Patrick Fitzgerald, a big deal lawyer for a big deal law firm, who Michigan State hired to represent the university’s interests, when it finally became apparent that — at best — looking the other way while hundreds of little girls and young women got sexually violated by one of your employees could actually have bad consequences, even in Trumpland.

This isn’t the first time Simon has claimed that Fitzgerald has exonerated the university in general and most particularly its administrative leadership. In a letter to the “community” a month ago she said this:

Last week, I directed our lead attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, for these cases to respond to the Michigan Attorney General’s request for information gathered by Skadden Arps for our legal defense in civil suits. In a letter to the Attorney General, Patrick Fitzgerald stated:

“If… they found any evidence that anyone at MSU other than Nassar knew of Nassar’s criminal behavior and did anything to conceal or facilitate it then that evidence of criminal conduct would be reported immediately to…appropriate law enforcement authorities.… The evidence will show that no MSU official believed that Nassar committed sexual abuse prior to newspaper reports in the summer of 2016.”

Simon and her putative bosses (the Board of Trustees, who should all be removed immediately) have cited this “finding” repeatedly, as proof that nobody at MSU did anything wrong, so let’s not argue and bicker about who raped who when we’ve got 37 new programs and this terrific basketball arena to celebrate.

This is just preposterous. It’s either a fantastic lie or fantastically stupid, more probably the former, although it’s increasingly hard to distinguish between those two phenomena in Trumpland.

Pat Fitzgerald is MSU’s lawyer. His firm has been brought in — at $1,000 an hour — to represent MSU’s legal interests. That means he’s legally required to say what he said in that letter, by his duty of zealous representation. ETA: Simon and and the Board of Trustees have, apparently intentionally, confused the public on this point, by making various statements that have created the impression that Skadden is conducting an independent investigation, like that Louis Freeh was hired to conduct at PSU. The school’s contract with the firm makes it clear this isn’t the case. (H/t Bloix)

Suppose 12 different students come to me independently over a period of several years and tell me that a doctor at the university’s health center has assaulted them. Suppose I choose to do nothing. Did I know students were being assaulted? From my lawyer’s perspective, no I didn’t! I mean maybe the students were all lying or delusional. It’s not like the doctor called me up and told me he was sexually assaulting people. That’s all Fitzgerald’s letter says or means. In other words it’s the opposite of an exculpation: it’s merely a lawyer saying his client is innocent, which is what the lawyer is being paid to say, and which indeed he’s required to say, unless his client flat out tells him otherwise.

To bandy Fitzgerald’s letter about as if it represented the conclusions of some sort of actual independent investigation is incredibly dishonest, although under the circumstances “incredibly” is being used in a purely rhetorical sense here.

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