Dec. 12 2018 12:25 AM

Meridian Township looks back on past mistakes


WEDNESDAY, DEC. 12 — More than a decade ago, Brianne Randall-Gay reported that she had been sexually assaulted by convicted rapist Larry Nassar. But after confronting Nassar, the Meridian Township police department largely decided to look the other way.


Nassar told township police officers that his approach to physical therapy was a legitimate medical technique. Officers, in turn, opted against forwarding their investigation to the Ingham County prosecutor and Nassar’s crimes continued unchecked. Township officials later realized their officers had made a grave mistake.


The disgraced Michigan State University sports doctor will now spend the rest of his life behind bars, serving multiple consecutive sentences for child pornography, criminal sexual conduct and sexual assault. More than 150 women and girls reportedly suffered from his continued abuse.


“There is no question that what happened is a day that we’re not proud of in this township and we certainly wish we could re-do what happened,” said Township Manager Frank Walsh. “We know we should have forwarded this report to the Ingham County prosecutor. We know we should’ve brought in a medical expert.”


So what happens when a township botches a criminal investigation from 2004? They retrace their missteps.


The township board — by 6-0 vote — decided Tuesday evening to hire retired East Lansing Police Department officer Ken Ouellette to help review where local officers at the time had failed Randall-Gay. He’ll now spend the next 60 days — and be paid up to $4,500 — to help review the past investigation and determine what went wrong.


“This contract is a way to delve into exactly what happened where an external investigator comes in and informs all of us what we can do better,” Walsh said. “We’ll hopefully all learn from that and, in the end, we hope that this is closure for Brianne, the township, the community and our police department.”


Township officials, after realizing what had occurred, quickly apologized to Randall-Gay and renewed a commitment not to repeat the same mistakes. The township has also since launched a large-scale sexual assault prevention program and personally tapped Randall-Gay to help ensure they’re headed in the right direction.


Board members agreed the contract for Oullette was a small price to pay to ensure that township police officers will not turn a blind eye to sexual assault in the community. They’ve already conducted an internal review, but it can never hurt to have another set of eyes to validate their findings, explained Trustee Dan Opsommer.


Township Clerk Brett Dreyfus reiterated that the recent “good faith” contract with Oullette ultimately doesn’t protect the township from any potential litigation arising from its previous investigatory missteps. Randall-Gay, for her part, has not filed any sort of civil lawsuits against the township stemming from the failed investigation.


“Hopefully this will bring a closure for Brianne and the township, but Brianne continues to be our primary concern,” added recently-appointed Treasurer Phil Deschaine. “She is, after all, the victim here.”


City Pulse wouldn’t typically name victims of sexual assault, but given the public nature of the case — and Randall-Gay’s public testimony regarding Nassar’s revolting crimes — an exception was made for this story.