Former USA Gymnastics doctor pleads not guilty to criminal sexual conduct; police investigating 50 complaints
A former USA Gymnastics doctor pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in his home with a girl under 13, charges that Michigan’s attorney general said were the “tip of the iceberg” as authorities investigated about 50 complaints.
Larry Nassar, who was arrested Monday while running an errand at a tire store in the Lansing, Mich., area, was arraigned by video from jail. He was released after 10% of a $1-million bond was paid, more than two months after two gymnasts — including a member of the 2000 U.S. women’s Olympic team — accused him of sexual abuse during medical treatments.
Also on Tuesday, a Detroit attorney said he filed a civil lawsuit against Nassar on behalf of a Los Angeles woman who says she was sexually abused about 20 years ago during treatments when she was a 14-year-old gymnast.
It’s at least the third civil suit filed against Nassar.
The woman filing Tuesday’s lawsuit is not the girl in Michigan’s criminal case.
Those alleged assaults against the girl occurred between 1998 and 2005, from the age of 6 until the girl was 12. She was not a gymnast, patient or family member, said Michigan Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette.
He said Nassar, a former associate professor of osteopathic medicine at Michigan State University, committed “predatory, menacing” acts and “stole this young lady’s childhood.”
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Schuette said during a news conference Tuesday.
University Police Chief James Dunlap said his department had received about 50 complaints.
“We’re dealing with decades of effort to go back and identify witnesses and to compile those for submission to the attorney general’s office,” he said.
Ingham County District Court Magistrate Mark Blumer ordered Nassar to wear an electronic tether and to surrender his passport. He also was prohibited from being present with anyone under 18, including his children, unless another adult is there.
A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Dec. 15.
Nassar, who could face life imprisonment if convicted, has denied wrongdoing.
Shannon Smith, one of his lawyers, said his wife — who was in the courtroom — and “hundreds of people support him 100%. We have received countless emails and communications from other doctors, physicians, physical therapists, ex-patients, ex-coworkers supporting him.”
Assistant state Atty. Gen. Angela Povilaitis had asked that bond be denied or, in the alternate, that a very high amount be imposed.
“She has come forward bravely to report this and to cooperate and prosecute this case,” she said.
Nassar was fired in September by Michigan State University. In October, a former gymnast who was on the national team from 2006 to 2011 filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles, alleging Nassar repeatedly sexually abused her and renowned husband-and-wife coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi turned a blind eye to molestations.
Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which has been named in two civil lawsuits, said previously that that it cut ties with Nassar after learning of athlete concerns about him in summer 2015.
“USA Gymnastics today learned about the charges against Dr. Larry Nassar through a media report,” it said. “As we previously have made clear, when USA Gymnastics first learned of athlete concerns regarding Dr. Nassar, those concerns were reported to the FBI and Nassar was dismissed from further involvement with USA Gymnastics.”
Detroit attorney Brian McKeen said he filed Tuesday’s civil lawsuit in Ingham County.
His client lived in East Lansing when she sought treatment for lower back pain in late 1996 and early 1997 from Nassar, McKeen said.
“This doctor used this young girl’s innocence and naivete against her,” McKeen said. “She trusted her doctor’s authority when he insisted his treatments were standard procedure, but they were no more than sexual assault and abuse of a child.”
Smith, Nassar’s lawyer, had not seen the civil lawsuit Tuesday and declined to comment on it.
The attorney general, who is investigating criminally at the request of the campus police, said his department was in the best position to prosecute instead of the local prosecutor because it is believed that potential crimes crossed into multiple jurisdictions in Michigan and possibly across state lines. He said his office was working with the FBI and federal prosecutors in Michigan.
“We are unable to comment further due to the ongoing FBI investigation and pending litigation,” USA Gymnastics said.
The Latinx experience chronicled
Get the Latinx Files newsletter for stories that capture the multitudes within our communities.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.