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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.   

Caleb Woods/Upsplash

Dr. Larry Nassar is back in court this week. The former Olympic gymnastics and Michigan State University sports doctor is accused of sexually abusing dozens of patients, under the guise of treatment.


MSU police say the three men assaulted a young woman in a bathroom at a campus party
Flickr/Betsy Weber

On Tuesday morning, Detective Chad Davis told an East Lansing judge what MSU police believe happened in the early morning hours of January 16th.

At a party in an on-campus apartment, Davis says, a young woman started talking with Josh King, an MSU football player she’d met before. He asked her if she wanted to go somewhere quiet to talk, and pulled her into the bathroom.

There, Davis says King tried to initiate sex, but the woman says she told King she didn’t want to.

Spartan Stadium
Ed Schipul / Flickr

Josh King, Donnie Corley Jr, and Demetric Vance were officially charged with sexual assault Tuesday morning, MSU police announced.

“King has been charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of capturing/distributing image of an unclothed person. Vance and Corley Jr. each has been charged with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct,” the department said in a release.

  Between sports physician Larry Nasser being accused of sexually preying on athletes for decades and four football players charged with criminal sexual conduct, Michigan State University is an institution in crisis.
John M. Quick / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In the early morning hours of January 16, three football players allegedly assaulted a young woman at a party in an on-campus apartment.

That’s according to Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon, who announced she’s authorizing charges against the three men on Monday.

Their names won’t be released by the prosecutor’s office until they’re arraigned, a spokesman said. Michigan Radio reached out to the men’s attorneys, but they either declined to comment or didn’t immediately respond.

C/O Youtube

Michigan State University will not renew its contract with Curtis Blackwell, a school spokesman confirmed Tuesday. The news was first reported by Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press.

Blackwell, a former Detroit high school coach and co-founder of the Sound Mind Sound Body football camp, was brought on staff for his relationships with potential recruits in the region.

C/O Karina Valle

UPDATE 5:15 pm

When Karina Valle learned her husband was still being detained in the US on Tuesday morning, and not on a plane back to El Salvador, it was an enormous relief.

"I was a feeling a knot in my stomach up until the ICE officer said 'He's still in Battle Creek [where he's being detained,]'' she says via text. "My soul came back into my body." 

Moments before, Valle had raced with attorney Brad Thomson to file evidence they say proves her husband's deportation order is invalid: post office copies of a hearing notice that are marked "returned to sender," which they hope will convince a judge to reopen Valle Rodriguez's case. 

Thomson says the government has 10 days to respond, at which point a judge will decide whether or not to reopen the case. And he credits immigrations officials for keeping Valle Rodriguez in the US, for now. 

"This case is different...in that ICE chose to utilize their discretion not to deport Jose, until we formally turned in this application," Thomson says. "So today I'm really happy with the Director of ICE, I'm happy with ICE, and I have no complaints at least for the next five minutes," he laughed.

A spokeperson with ICE in Detroit referred media questions to the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the US Department of Justice. 

UPDATE Tuesday, May 30 2017 at 10:20 am 

Immigration attorney Brad Thomson says he was able to file an application to reopen Jose Ricardo Valle Rodriguez's immigration case first thing on Tuesday morning. The minute Thomson got the court's time stamp, he says, an automatic stay of removal was granted temporarily.

That means the US government cannot legally deport Valle Rodriguez at this time, though that could change quickly, depending on whether the case is reopened. 

Kate Wells

“How you doing, kiddo?” Judge Donald Allen asked a 17-year-old witness who’d just wrapped up a long, disturbing story of sexual assault that she says has damaged both her ability to trust and her desire to be touched. “That wasn’t fun,” she admitted, her eyes red and wet for the first time since she took the stand.

“Better than the dentist?” the judge joked.

“I’d much rather go to the dentist,” she replied.

lower half of gymnast on balance beam
James Thomas/flickr creative commons

Former Olympic gymnastics and Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar will be back in district court in Mason today. He'll face some of the women and girls who claim he sexually abused them while he was supposed to be treating their injuries.

MSU football players approach the field
Matt Radick / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

So here’s what we know: on Tuesday, the attorney for a woman accusing three MSU football players of rape, told the press that MSU’s internal Title IX investigation found all three men in violation of school policy.

“What I can share is that the Title IX investigation is complete,” says Karen Truszkowski, the lawyer for the accuser. “[MSU’s investigator] did a very fair, reasonable, thorough investigation. And the report does say that three young men involved in this are in violation of a university policy.”

Kate Wells

The courtroom was ready for an intense day: this is, after all, a case in which the defendant has been accused of sexual assault by not just the seven women and girls in this particular hearing, but by more than 80 complainants thus far, according to the Michigan State Police.

It was just the first of what may well be three days of testimony, as 55th District Court Judge Donald Allen weighs whether there’s enough evidence against Dr. Larry Nassar, former MSU sports doctor and  Olympic gymnastics team physician, to go to trial in this case.

Judge's gavel
Joe Gratz / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Rachael Denhollander will be the first to take the stand at 9 am on Friday, according to her attorney. It's the first day of preliminary hearings in a case involving her and 6 other alleged victims, who claim they were abused by Dr. Larry Nassar. 

“Yeah, I’m really not looking forward to it, to be honest,” Denhollander says. The mom of three is at home on the phone, while her husband’s in the background wrangling their 2-year-old (whose molars are coming in painfully and loudly.)

Drew, Cooper & Anding / YouTube Video

Since Rachael Denhollander went public with her accusations against former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar in September, more than 80 women and girls have come forward with similar complaints.

Seven of the women and girls who say they were sexually abused by a former sports doctor will begin testifying against him next week.

Larissa Boyce's scrapbook photos from the MSU Spartan youth gymnastics program
Courtsey of Larissa Boyce

What happens when a child reports sexual abuse, but adults don’t believe them?

Flickr Creative Commons

Four more former patients, including a 14-year-old dancer, are suing former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar for sexual abuse.

They join more than 80 other women and girls who claim Nassar abused them under the guise of treatment.

In the lawsuit filed Monday, one woman says Nassar abused her around 1992 to 1993, when he was still in medical school at MSU. A spokesman for MSU confirmed Nassar graduated in 1993.

Alberto Ortiz/Flicker

They're stunned, confused and outraged.

"I'm not a lawyer and have only a very basic understanding of our legal system,” says former Olympic gymnast Jamie Dantzscher, in an affidavit filed in federal court Tuesday. 

For babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the first few days and weeks can be more challenging.
Flickr Creative Commons/London Looks

Sara and her husband always wanted to have a baby. They tried for years, but she’d been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, so she eventually accepted it wasn’t in the cards for them.

A courtroom
Bill Ledbetter / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Here’s the big question: Did a judge just block 80-plus women and girls from talking about their sexual assault allegations against former Olympic gymnastics and MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar?

Or does today’s order to “limit public disclosure” just mean that attorneys with civil suits against Nassar can’t call him a pedophile on Facebook?

Depends who you ask. And even some of the lawyers mentioned in this brief say they don’t totally understand how to interpret the order.

Nassar’s defense: We can’t get a fair trial without judge’s help

Ann Arbor Public Schools

High school suspension rates have dropped by 43% in Ann Arbor over the last few years, but four groups of students still get suspended more often than their peers: boys, African American students, students in Special Education, and kids living in poverty.

“That’s an area we’re really focusing on,” says Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift. “Because we haven’t realized the dramatic reduction that we have there [with impoverished students] that we have in the other areas.”

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Flint residents just got a big proposed settlement from the city and the state over the water crisis. A settlement was announced late last week, but more details were released today.

The state is agreeing to pay at least $87 million to pay for at least 18,000 new water service lines in Flint. Under the proposal, which has to get final approval from a judge, the city would have to replace all lead and galvanized steel water lines in the next three years.

Steve Burt / Flickr, http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Here’s one way to react to a warming planet: get smaller.

We know mammals literally shrank, during a massive global warming event 56 million years ago. Imagine an early horse ancestor the size of a cat.

Now back then, the earth was 46 degrees hotter on average than it is right now.

So researchers wanted to know: do mammals still experience shrinking - a.k.a. dwarfing - during other, less intense periods of warming?

ellenm1 / Flickr, http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

You know how in old Disney cartoons and movies, spring arrives and all the birds and woodland creatures just wake up all at once?

That’s kind of how nature works, too.

But new research suggests that what we typically think of as spring: flowers blooming, ice melting... is starting to change.

Dr. Larry Nassar
Michigan Attorney General's office

Dr. Larry Nassar has been found responsible for sexual assault, for the first time since this scandal erupted in the fall. 

TaxRebate.org.uk/Flickr Creative Commons

If you're trying to understand what the heck this new Republican health care bill would mean for you, you’re not alone.

Let’s do a quick recap: Medicaid is health insurance for really low income people. Under the Affordable Care Act, states including Michigan expanded their Medicaid programs. Suddenly single adults making $16,600 a year were eligible, or a family of four making about $34,000 a year.

Since then, 650,000 Michiganders have signed up for that Medicaid expansion, called “Healthy Michigan.” Researchers say most of those people didn’t have insurance before this.

lower half of gymnast on balance beam
James Thomas/flickr creative commons

Katie Payne lives in California now. She and her sister, Maureen Payne Baum, grew up in the Detroit area.

Their mom still lives there. And a few months ago, their mom was driving to work, listening to news on the radio, when a story came on. A US Olympic gymnastics and Michigan State University sports doctor was being accused of sexual abuse.

It was just 4 a.m. in California. But Payne’s mom called her anyway.

Flickr Creative Commons

Professor John Kerr wants to be really clear: It's not that he thinks MSU police aren't doing a great job, or that the administration has anything to hide in its effort to investigate Dr. Larry Nassar, a former professor and sports physician at the school.

It's just that Kerr, and at least another 150 faculty members at Michigan State University who signed a letter detailing their concerns, are worried it looks bad if the university essentially investigates itself in a massive criminal sexual abuse case.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

A bomb threat forced children to evacuate from Hebrew Day School in Ann Arbor Monday morning, as similar threats were reported in Florida, Pennsylvania, Alabama, New Jersey and other states.

An unidentified man called the Hebrew Day School just after 9 am, claiming there was a bomb in a backpack that was about to detonate, according to police.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Here’s a question some doctors and attorneys are getting: if you’re an immigrant – even a legal one – could you get deported for using food stamps? What about Medicaid? 

There's a lot of fear among immigrants right now that getting public assistance could make them a target.

Take the calls Dr. Eric Bouwens started getting a few weeks ago at the Clinica Santa Maria in Grand Rapids. 

MSU police say the three men assaulted a young woman in a bathroom at a campus party
Flickr/Betsy Weber

Members of the MSU women's gymnastics team were told to say "no comment" to any reporters or police asking about sexual abuse allegations against the team physician, Dr. Larry Nassar.

That’s according to a lawsuit (which you can read here) filed by a scholarship student on the team, who also says she was repeatedly assaulted by Nassar as a child.

A team meeting in September 

  Between sports physician Larry Nasser being accused of sexually preying on athletes for decades and four football players charged with criminal sexual conduct, Michigan State University is an institution in crisis.
John M. Quick / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

After 27 years on the job, Kathie Klages is resigning as head coach of women’s gymnastics at MSU. She denies any knowledge about Dr. Larry Nassar’s alleged years-long, repeated sexual abuse of MSU gymnasts.

Two women have filed court documents claiming they told Klages about Nassar’s alleged assaults back in the 1990s. He wasn’t fired from MSU until earlier this past fall.  

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