May 30, 2018 / 7:19 PM / 5 months ago

Ex-officials in gymnastics sex abuse scandal subpoenaed by U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. marshals served a subpoena on Wednesday on former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon to compel her to appear before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on June 5 on efforts to protect athletes from abuse, a committee spokesman said.

FILE PHOTO - Michigan State University (MSU) President Lou Anna Simon speaks after being confronted by victims during a break at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Simon, who resigned from Michigan State in January, and Steve Penny from USA Gymnastics were criticized for not doing enough to halt abuse by former doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted last year of molesting gymnasts and was sentenced to an effective life term in prison.

A lawyer for Penny, who resigned in March 2017, accepted a subpoena on his behalf, said spokesman Frederick Hill of the Senate Commerce panel that has been investigating abuse of athletes. Simon was served with a subpoena in Traverse City, Michigan, Hill said.

A lawyer for Simon, Mayer Morganroth, did not respond to a request for comment. But he told the Detroit Free Press that Simon had been on vacation in Traverse City and would appear at the hearing. “There is not much she can say,” he told the newspaper. “They know that. She didn’t have any direct contact at all with Nassar.”

Witnesses can assert the right not to answer questions if they fear the answers could be used against them in a potential criminal prosecution.

Simon, who became president in 2005, said in her resignation letter in January that “as tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger.”

A third former official, Rhonda Faehn, who was the women’s program director of USA Gymnastics and was dismissed earlier this month, has also been called and agreed to testify, Hill said.

It was not immediately clear who is representing Penny or Faehn.

Earlier this month, hundreds of women sexually abused by Nassar tentatively agreed to a $500 million settlement with Michigan State University.

Kerry Perry, chief executive of USA Gymnastics since December, apologized last week to hundreds of female athletes sexually abused by Nassar and told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing that “those days are over.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney

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