Nassar scandal far from over

Lansing, Michigan: A decades-long sentence for Michigan sports doctor Larry Nassar ensures he won’t be free again. But the conclusion of an extraordinary seven-day court hearing doesn’t close the book on the scandal.

Nassar, 54, was sentenced on Wednesday to a minimum of 40 years in state prison, a punishment that’s in addition to a 60-year term in federal prison for child pornography crimes. Michigan State University, where Nassar assaulted young gymnasts and other athletes, is under fire by victims, lawyers and lawmakers who want to know why he was able to get away with it for so long.

Here’s where things stand while Nassar sits behind bars:


Nassar will appear in an Eaton County, Michigan, court on January 31 for another prison sentence. He pleaded guilty to assaulting three girls at Twistars, a gymnastics club. Victims said they were regularly molested after lining up for treatment for various injuries. The club is owned by John Geddert, who was suspended this week by USA Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body, and suddenly announced his retirement. He was US women’s coach at the 2012 Olympics. Geddert said he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes.


One of Nassar’s victims, Kyle Stephens, said Michigan State needs to be “accountable for everything that they’ve done”. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina is also calling for an investigation of how years of allegations against Nassar were handled. Michigan State bowed to pressure last week and asked Attorney General Bill Schuette to conduct a review. A law firm hired by the university said no campus officials believed Nassar committed sexual assault before newspaper reports emerged in 2016. But some victims said they complained to various staff as far back as the late 1990s. Dianne Byrum, a member of the school’s governing board, says a “full accounting” is needed.


Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon submitted her resignation on Wednesday night in a letter to the school’s Board of Trustees.
Two of Michigan State’s eight publicly elected trustees wanted her to resign after victims accused the university of mishandling past complaints about Nassar. The Michigan House voted 96-11 in favor of her resignation after Nassar was sentenced. A victim, Rachael Denhollander, said Michigan State was “compounding the damage” by the way it responded to the scandal.
A Simon supporter, trustee Joel Ferguson, said before her resignation that there’s more at Michigan State than “this Nassar thing”. He later apologised.


More than 130 women and girls are suing Nassar. The litigation is mostly centered in federal court in western Michigan, although there are some cases in California. Michigan State and USA Gymnastics are also defendants, accused of negligence. In a recent filing, Michigan State asked a judge to dismiss the cases against the university on several technical grounds, not the merits of the allegations. The school says it has immunity under Michigan law and that the majority of victims were not MSU students at the time of the alleged assaults.
“These arguments can seem disrespectful” to victims but a defence is required by Michigan State’s insurers, Simon earlier said. She added “we have the utmost respect and sympathy” for victims.


Ferguson laughed during a radio interview when asked if the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) might investigate Michigan State. “This is not Penn State,” he said on Tuesday, referring to sexual abuse by football coach Jerry Sandusky. But the NCAA says it has sent a letter of inquiry regarding potential rules violations. Separately, the US Olympic Committee says it will investigate why Nassar’s crimes went unchecked. Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber said they were victims when Nassar was a doctor at USA Gymnastics.


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