Nassar sex abuse victims, US university reach $500M settlement
By Nova SAFO
The Michigan university where serial sex abuser Larry Nassar practiced medicine announced Wednesday it has agreed to a $500 million settlement with hundreds of former victims of the ex-USA Gymnastics doctor.
The agreement with attorneys representing 332 women and girls was a “global settlement,” Michigan State University (MSU) said.
It resolved claims against faculty and staff employed at the school who were also implicated in the wide-ranging scandal.
But it did not address claims against USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee, star gymnastics coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi, and others, nor did it end a criminal probe of the university’s actions with regard to Nassar’s behavior.
The 54-year-old Nassar was sentenced in January to spend his life behind bars after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting women and girls over a two-decade period under the guise of medical treatment.
The assaults took place in multiple locations, including at an MSU sports medicine clinic and the famed Texas training facility where the Karolyis coached elite gymnasts.
Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney have all identified themselves as victims of Nassar’s abuse.
“It is the sincere hope of all of the survivors that the legacy of this settlement will be far reaching institutional reform that will end the threat of sexual assault in sports, schools and throughout our society,” attorney John Manly, who represents many of the victims, said in a statement.
The settlement is in two parts, with $425 million paid to current claimants and $75 million set aside in a trust fund for any future claims.
It includes no confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements.
Rachael Denhollander, the first to publicly accuse Nassar, said she was grateful for the settlement. She vowed to advocate for legal changes and structural reforms at the key institutions involved.
“The litigation phase is over, but the fight for change and accountability, the fight to give survivors a voice and protect the next generation, has only just begun,” she said in a statement.
– Criminal probe continues –
The Nassar scandal is the biggest in US Olympic history and has had far-reaching ripple effects — ending careers at USA Gymnastics, the Olympic committee and at Michigan State University.
Some 200 victims testified during live-streamed sentencing hearings in January and February about the resulting emotional and physical scars they have endured.
The powerful accounts led to a cascade of consequences — from multiple resignations at the sports governing bodies involved and at the university, to several investigations being launched.
The criminal probe into the university’s role in the scandal is being conducted by special counsel Bill Forsyth on behalf of Michigan’s top law enforcement office.
“It is very important to see resolution on the civil side, and I hope this provides some sense of relief and closure for the survivors. That being said, my investigation is still open and ongoing,” Forsyth said in a statement.
The US Department of Education is also investigating the public university’s handling of reports of Nassar’s abuse.
A key question for many victims has been who knew about Nassar’s behavior and who could have stopped him earlier.
With a stellar reputation as the doctor to Olympic champions, Nassar had evaded scrutiny several times since the late 1990s by insisting his abuse was actually cutting-edge treatment that was misunderstood by some patients.
USA Gymnastics reported Nassar to the FBI in July 2015, but he continued to see patients at the university until a newspaper exposed him in September 2016.
The state criminal inquiry into the university has so far yielded charges against William Strampel, the former dean of the MSU medical college where Nassar practiced.
Strampel faces several charges, including criminal sexual conduct and willful neglect of duty.