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Kate Wells

Host/Reporter/Producer

Kate Wells is an award-winning reporter covering general news for Michigan Radio. Her work has been featured on NPR’s Morning EditionAll Things Considered, and Weekend Edition, as well as on WNYC, Harvest Public Media, KUT (Austin Public Radio) and in the Texas Tribune.

Kate got her start as an intern with New Hampshire Public Radio before heading out to the Midwest, where she covered the presidential caucuses for Iowa Public Radio and won a regional Edward R. Murrow award for investigative journalism. She joined Michigan Radio in 2012. Kate enjoys hiking, the Muppets, and cake in all forms.   

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Six Detroit police officers are being charged with extortion.

The FBI says they took bribes from collision shop owners, in exchange for sending stolen cars their way.

A federal grand jury just indicted two of the officers, who are still employed by the department.

The other four have since retired, and pleaded guilty to extortion.

And if you ever had your car stolen in Detroit, you may have unknowingly been part of this scam.

The "Sparty" statue on the MSU campus
Betsy Weber / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

As calls for an independent investigation into Michigan State University's handling of the sexual assault charges against former sports Dr. Larry Nassar grow louder, here’s a rundown of people currently working at MSU, who victims say were either 1) told about Nassar’s abuse years ago; or 2) whose failures to protect children and students on campus, they believe, border on negligence. 

https://www.michiganstateuniversityonline.com/about/michigan-state/

It’s been a rough several days for Michigan State University and its president, Lou Anna K. Simon.

Dr. Larry Nassar
Michigan Attorney General's office

The former Olympic gymnastics and Michigan State University sports doctor who sexually abused patients under the guise of treatments, got what’s effectively a life sentence today – albeit for different crimes.

Nassar in court.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

A judge has sentenced a Michigan sports doctor to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes, one of three criminal cases against a man who also admits assaulting female gymnasts.

Larry Nassar in court in recent months with his attorneys, Shannon Smith and Matthew Newburg.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

As she prepares to sentence a former Olympic gymnastics and Michigan State University sports doctor for child pornography possession next week, federal Judge Janet Neff is getting a picture of two very different Larry Nassars.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

Enbridge Energy temporarily shut down Line 5 operations in the Straits of Mackinac Tuesday morning. 

Under a new agreement with the state, Enbridge has to suspend Line 5 operations in the Straits during severe weather when waves reach eight feet or more.

That agreement also requires the energy company to ramp up efforts to prevent a spill.  

Paul Weaver / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The argument that bad guys will always find a way to get guns, so gun laws don’t help, doesn’t appear to apply to intimate partner homicides.

Kate Wells

Thousands of home-bound people across the state had their turkey and pie (or apple crisp for the diabetics) dropped off at their door today. It’s one of the busiest times of year for Meals on Wheels, whose average recipient is about 75, female, and lives alone. “But they’re fiercely independent,” says Beth Adams, director of Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels. 

Nassar in court.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Dr. Larry Nassar, a former athletic doctor at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, pled guilty to seven counts of sexual assault in Ingham County court today (Wednesday). He faces at least 25 years in prison, but the judge could set the minimum to 40 years in prison. Sentencing is set for Jan. 12.

Over the summer Nassar also pled guilty to federal charges for possessing thousands of images of child pornography. More than 120 women and girls tell MSU police that Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of treatment.

Nassar was fired from MSU in September 2016. The university has hired attorneys to investigate who knew what about the allegations against Nassar. MSU says it has no plans to release that internal review. Meanwhile, lawsuits against Nassar and the university allege that MSU officials have been receiving reports of abuse since 1999.

The "Sparty" statue on the MSU campus
Betsy Weber / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan State University wants to prove it takes sexual assault issues seriously. After a year in which a former MSU sports doctor was arrested and accused of sexually abusing at least 120 women and girls, and three former football players were charged with sexual misconduct, the school brought in a law firm to review its Title IX policies and procedures.

A small group of women (including some not pictured here) have met up to share and process their alleged abuse by Dr. Larry Nassar. From left: Christine Harrison, Larissa Boyce, Jennifer Smith, and Alexis Alvarado
Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

This year, more than 120 women and girls found out they’re part of the same terrible club.

As children and teens, they were all allegedly abused by former Michigan State University and Olympic gymnastics sports doctor, Larry Nassar.

Now, as Nassar considers a plea deal next week on multiple sexual assault charges, some of these women and girls are meeting for the first time.
 

Larry Nassar in court in recent months with his attorneys, Shannon Smith and Matthew Newburg.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

For the 120-plus women and girls who were allegedly abused by former Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar, it’s overwhelming to think that he may actually admit to assault as early as next week.

Nassar, who also worked as the doctor for the US Olympic women’s gymnastics team, is scheduled to have a plea hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court next week, where he’s facing more than a dozen charges, including multiple counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a child under the age of 13.

why kei/unsplash.com

Starting today, law enforcement in five counties are piloting a new roadside drug test that analyzes saliva swabs for marijuana, opioids, meth, and other drugs above a certain threshold.

“When you say ‘roadside drug testing pilot begins,’ everybody thinks that we're setting up checkpoints and putting swabs in everybody's mouth,” says First Lieutenant Michael Shaw, a spokesperson for the state police. “And that's not the case.”

congresswoman brenda lawrence talking
brendalawrence.com

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, a Democrat from Michigan’s 14th district, says she would have “promptly investigated” any complaints of sexual harassment in her office – but she never received any.

Nassar in court.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

“Bubba will be his new bed partner.”

“Special circle of hell waiting for him.”

Those are just a couple of the Facebook comments Larry Nassar’s attorneys submitted to Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina last month, as part of their bid to move his upcoming trial out of the county.

It’s evidence, they argue, that after all the “inflammatory” media coverage of Nassar’s alleged sexual assaults, he can’t get a fair trial in the county where he’s lived and practiced for years.

Drew Hayes

Synthetic opioids are evolving so fast, even Michigan’s forensic scientists are caught in a game of cat and mouse: As soon as a new synthetic gets identified, another one pops up.

First it was fentanyl, which can be lethal even in very small doses – far smaller than a lethal dose of heroin. Then it was carfentanil, which made headlines for being even more powerful than fentanyl. And new variations on these synthetics keep turning up in crimes scenes and autopsies.

Wayne County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt says at least with carfentanil, they knew what they were dealing with.

“But when you get these synthetic fentanyls, who come from who knows where, you don’t know what their potency is,” he says. “But so far they’ve proven to be more potent than just plain old fentanyl.”

A Detroit-area doctor accused of intentionally misdiagnosing hundreds of Michigan kids with epilepsy has reportedly left the country, according to plaintiffs' attorneys.  

The case against Dr. Yasser Awaad has been dragging on for almost 10 years now. Some 250 patients and their families filed a class action suit in 2008, claiming they came in to see the pediatric neurologist with symptoms like headaches, only to be told they had epilepsy and needed extensive treatments, medications, and sometimes, surgeries.

Catt Liu

If you hit the grocery stores in the Toledo area a couple weeks ago, hoping to pick up some bottled water, you were out of luck.

Several stores completely sold out, thanks to rumors that the city would soon be issuing another “do not drink” advisory for tap water. It didn’t.

But water pollution in the Maumee River and western Lake Erie is creating harmful blooms so large, you can literally see them from space.

From tabloids to Time, McKayla Maroney just launched the Larry Nassar story back into the national spotlight.

Her statements early this morning describing alleged sexual assault by Nassar during her Olympic gymnastics career are detailed and horrifying.

Alex Pasarelu

The state health department says it found no significant increases in stillbirths or infant mortality in Flint, following the city's water crisis.

The "Sparty" statue on the MSU campus
Betsy Weber / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Larissa Boyce has good days and bad days.

Today is a good day. Boyce’s husband, Adam, a teacher, and their three oldest kids are at school, leaving just her and three-year-old Skyler to visit Grandpa and the central passion of Skyler’s life: Grandpa’s tractor.

“All done with tractor,” Skyler announces solemnly at the end of their ride. (A few minutes later: “Go tractor?”)

Larry Nassar in court in recent months with his attorneys, Shannon Smith and Matthew Newburg.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Michigan State University is paying a ton of money for some of the best lawyers in the country.

Their job? Investigate how a former MSU sports doctor, Larry Nassar, could allegedly abuse dozens of young patients for years – and whether anybody at MSU knew about it.

Aditya Romansa/Unsplah

You couldn’t miss the headlines about Flint’s “fertility crisis” a couple weeks ago. “Flint’s water crisis led to fewer babies and higher fetal death rates,” Science Daily summarized. “An estimated 275 fewer children were born in Flint, Michigan, while the city was using lead-contaminated water from the Flint River, according to new research findings,” the article said.

Official Website of Spartan Athletics

The three former MSU football players facing sexual assault charges in East Lansing have waived their rights to preliminary exams. The case will now advance to circuit court.

Josh King, 19, is facing first degree criminal sexual conduct charges for allegedly assaulting a female MSU student at party on campus in January. Those charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. He’s also facing one count of “capturing/distributing image of unclothed person,” for allegedly filming part of the assault.

Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison in 2016 spending nearly nine years behind bars.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Davontae Sanford is suing the city of Detroit, as well as former Detroit Police Commander James Tolbert and Sgt. Mike Russell, for wrongful imprisonment. 

Sanford spent nearly nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. At age 14, he was picked up by Detroit police in 2007 after four people were gunned down in a home in his neighborhood. Police interrogated him off and on for 2 days without a parent or attorneys present.

Michigan State University sign
MSU

Cameron Padgett wants at least $75,000 in damages, and a court order forcing Michigan State University to let white supremacist Richard Spencer speak on campus.

“It’s been kind of a struggle,” says Padgett, a 23-year-old student at Georgia State University, who’s also been arranging campus lectures for Spencer at schools like Auburn University and the University of Florida. Those attempts have not gone smoothly. “Everyone says they’re for free speech, but when it comes down to it, this country’s moving away from that.”

In July, Padgett says he tried to rent an MSU conference room for Spencer to give a talk about his "alt-right" philosophy, which “advances European racial interests … and [criticizes] free trade agreements, radical feminism, sexual deviancy, and the ideology of multiculturalism,” according to the lawsuit.

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

Ken Nobis is a dairy farmer in central Michigan, and right now he’s worried about where South Koreans are going to get their cheese.

A small community college is suing the state of Michigan, in a fight over whether some student workers should have to enroll in the public school teacher’s retirement fund.

“Yeah, it is difficult to explain craziness, but I’ll try,” says David Mathews, President of Southwestern Michigan College. The school has about 2,600 students enrolled on campuses in Dowagiac and Niles, he says. Around half are full-time students, and half are part-time.

National Guardsmen pulling people onto boat.
Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle

The Michigan National Guard is deploying 24 guardsmen and three helicopters — two CH-47 Chinooks, and one UH-72 Lakota — to Texas on Thursday to assist with Hurricane Harvey rescue and relief efforts. Approximately 350 additional guardsmen are on standby.

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