Michigan State University claims immunity from Larry Nassar sexual assault liability claims

EAST LANSING (AP) — Michigan State University is asking a judge to dismiss a second wave of lawsuits related to former sports doctor Larry Nassar, even as the school says it’s working to reach a deal with additional assault victims.
MSU defended itself in a court filing Monday, declaring it’s immune from liability for Nassar’s crimes.
Nassar has been sentenced to decades in prison for sexually assaulting athletes, mostly female gymnasts, at MSU and a Lansing-area gymnastics club. Former Olympians said he also molested them in Texas and overseas while he worked for USA Gymnastics.
“Although Nassar’s actions were repugnant and merit the heavy criminal penalties imposed upon him, the law does not support plaintiffs’ attempts to hold the MSU defendants liable for his wrongs,” lawyers for the school said, citing immunity and a statute of limitations, among other defenses.
MSU last year agreed to a $500 million deal with Nassar’s accusers. Most of the money, $425 million, was for 333 people, mostly women and girls, who had already sued. MSU so far has settled with 72 people in the second wave of litigation but dozens remain.
Spokeswoman Emily Guerrant told the Detroit Free Press that the school was under a court order to reply to the lawsuits. But she also said there were “active settlement negotiations.”
But an attorney for the victims, Donna MacKenzie, said the court filing was unfortunate.
“MSU should be ashamed by the way it continues to represent to the public that it cares about settlement and healing, while at the same time paying their lawyers thousands of dollars to aggressively defend and file motions to dismiss the survivors’ claims in court,” MacKenzie said.

Larry Nassar, a former doctor for USA Gymnastics and member of Michigan State’s sports medicine staff, sits in court during his sentencing hearing in Lansing on Jan. 24, 2018. MSU is defending itself against a second wave of lawsuits related to Nassar but says it wants to reach a deal with the additional assault victims. MSU defended itself in a court filing Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. It says it’s immune to liability for Nassar’s crimes, no matter how “repugnant.” (AP file photo)

Michigan State Universrity agrees to protect patients from sexual assault or face consequences in deal with federal agency

Associated Press
LANSING — Michigan State University has agreed to better protect patients from sexual assaults, including following a chaperone requirement for sensitive medical exams, to resolve a federal civil-rights investigation into Larry Nassar’s abuse of young gymnasts and other athletes under the guise of medical treatment.
The three-year agreement announced Monday is the first one struck under a section of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits discrimination in certain health care programs or activities, said Roger Severino, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. The deal covers not only students under Title IX but also patients who are not students.
The university and two associated entities — MSU HealthTeam and MSU Health Care Inc. — will require that a second health team member be present at sensitive medical exams. The school previously instituted a chaperone requirement in 2017 in the wake of the scandal involving its former sports doctor, Nassar, and his abuse of hundreds of girls and women, but Severino said it now must comply or face consequences.
“It’s one thing for an institution that has failed repeatedly to police itself to say that they’re going to do better this time compared to the federal government (which has) the ability to strip federal funds in case of repeated noncompliance,” Severino said.
He added that federal officials will be monitoring closely, which is a key difference. He said the Office for Civil Rights opened the probe on its own about eight months ago and not in response to a complaint.
When sensitive exams are conducted, patients will be given an appropriate gown, privacy to dress and undress, and sensitive draping to maximize their privacy. The university and the health entities also will revise their nondiscrimination notices and sexual misconduct policies, improve their processes for investigating and resolving complaints, conduct all-staff training and report twice a year to the Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.
University President Samuel Stanley Jr. said the revisions recommended by federal officials “further enhance the many protection and policy improvements MSU has made since Nassar’s arrest.” He said those include the school’s own version of a chaperone policy as well as a protocol to review all reported allegations of inappropriate interactions between practitioners and patients. The university also will add investigators to handle grievances and complaints, he said.
“We must always look for ways to do more for those who trust the university with their health and safety,” Stanley said in a statement.
Separate investigations of Michigan State’s handling of complaints against Nassar, which the U.S. Department of Education is leading, are expected to end “in the near future,” said spokeswoman Liz Hill.

Larry Nassar listens during his sentencing at Eaton County Circuit Court in downstate Charlotte on Feb. 5, 2018. (AP file photo)

Gold medalist Simone Biles still upset with USA Gymnastics for not keeping gymnasts safe

AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The mix of rage, disappointment and grief are still there. Just under the surface.
And while Simone Biles tries to stay focused on the healing process more than 18 months after the Olympic gymnastics champion revealed she was among the hundreds of athletes abused by disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar, there are times when the massive systemic breakdown that allowed Nassar’s behavior to run unchecked for years becomes too much.
“It hits you like a train wreck,” Biles said Wednesday as she prepared for the U.S. championships.
One that leaves the greatest gymnast of her generation and the face of the U.S. Olympic movement ahead of the 2020 Games in a difficult spot.
She still loves competing, pushing herself and the boundaries of her sport in the process.
And yet the 22-year-old still finds herself working under the banner of USA Gymnastics and by extension the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Both organizations were called out by Congress along with the FBI last week in a scathing report that detailed a series of catastrophic missteps that allowed Nassar — a longtime trainer with USA Gymnastics as well as Michigan State University — to continue to abuse patients even after athletes started questioning his methods in the summer of 2015.
While Nassar is now behind bars for the rest of his life and USA Gymnastics has undergone a massive overhaul in leadership since the 2016 Olympics as it fights to retain its status as the sport’s national governing body, the scars remain fresh for Biles, though she knows that doesn’t make her different from the other women who were abused by Nassar under the guise of treatment.
“I don’t mean to cry,” the typically poised Biles said through tears two days before attempting to win her sixth national title. “But it’s hard coming here for an organization having had them failed us so many times. And we had one goal and we’ve done everything that they’ve asked us for, even when we didn’t want to and they couldn’t do one damn job. You had one job. You literally had one job and you couldn’t protect us.”
Biles is in therapy to help deal with the emotional fallout, well aware that progress will be slow and that a full recovery might not be possible.
“Everyone’s healing process is different and I think that’s the hardest part,” she said. “Because I feel like maybe I should be healed or this or that. But I feel like it will be an open wound for a really long time and it might not ever get closed or healed.”
So Biles is doing what she can, trying to find a balance between her pursuit to become the first woman in more than 50 years to repeat as Olympic champion while using her status as the face of her sport to effect change.
“When we tweet, it obviously goes a long way,” she said. “We’re blessed to be given a platform so that people will hear and listen. But you know, it’s not easy coming back to the sport. Coming back to the organization that has failed you. But you know, at this point, I just try to think, ‘I’m here as a professional athlete with my club team and stuff like that.’ Because it’s not easy being out here. I feel every day is a reminder of what I went through and what I’ve been through and what I’m going through and how I’ve come out of it.”

Simone Biles performs on the balance beam in the women’s all-around final in the Gymnastics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 1. (AP file photo)

NCAA clears Michigan State University in scandals

EAST LANSING (AP) — The NCAA cleared Michigan State University of any rules infractions in the Larry Nassar sexual-assault scandal, the school announced Thursday.
The school released a letter from Jonathan Duncan, the NCAA’s vice president for enforcement, that addressed the Nassar case, as well as an investigation into how the university has handled allegations involving football and men’s basketball players.
“This review has not substantiated violations of NCAA legislation,” Duncan wrote in his letter, which was dated Wednesday and addressed to Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman. “Based on available information, it does not appear there is need for further inquiry.”
Nassar, 55, pleaded guilty to assaulting girls and women while working as a campus sports doctor for MSU athletes and gymnasts in the region. Victims included U.S. Olympians who trained at Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics. He has been sentenced to decades in prison in three cases involving assault and child pornography.

Ex-Michigan State University gymnastics coach Kathie Ann Klages charged in Larry Nassar sexual abuse case

Associated Press
LANSING — A former head coach of Michigan State’s gymnastics team was charged Thursday with lying to an investigator when she denied that witnesses told her years ago about being sexually assaulted by ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar.
A charging document does not specify how many witnesses allegedly reported Nassar to Kathie Ann Klages, or when they did so. But former gymnast Larissa Boyce has said she told Klages of Nassar’s abuse in 1997, when Boyce was 16 — 19 years before he was first criminally charged with sexual abuse.
Klages, who resigned in 2017 after she was suspended for defending the now-imprisoned Nassar, is now the third person other than Nassar to face criminal charges related to his serial molestation of young female athletes under the guise of treatment. Numerous other people have lost their jobs or been sued.
If convicted of lying to a peace officer, the 63-year-old Klages could face up to four years in prison.
Boyce, who declined comment Thursday, had been training with the Spartan youth gymnastics team in 1997. She has said Klages dissuaded her from taking the issue further, even after another teen gymnast relayed similar allegations.
The warrant released Thursday alleges that in June, after being informed by special agent David Dwyre that he was conducting a criminal investigation, Klages knowingly and willfully made false and misleading statements to him. She faces two counts of lying to a peace officer, one a felony and the other a high court misdemeanor.
It was unclear whether Klages had a criminal defense attorney.

Former Michigan State University gymnastics head coach Kathie Klages reacts during a women’s gymnastics meet in East Lansing in February 2016. Klages was charged Thursday with lying to police amid an investigation into the school’s handling of sexual abuse complaints against former sports doctor Larry Nassar. (AP file photo via The State News)

Ex-sports doctor Nassar moved to another prison facility

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Authorities say disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar has been transferred to another federal prison facility.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons website on Sunday shows the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor is at the Oklahoma Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City. He had been imprisoned in Tucson, Arizona.
Nassar’s attorneys said last month he was assaulted within hours of being placed in the general population at the Arizona federal prison.
Ralph Miller, a retired federal prisons worker who specialized in sex offender designations, tells The Detroit News the transfer is likely due to the assault.
Nassar pleaded guilty in two cases to molesting women and girls who sought treatment. He’s serving decades in prison and likely will never be released.

USA Gymnastics president: mediation with Nassar survivors

AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) — USA Gymnastics President Kerry Perry says the embattled organization is in the midst of “productive” mediation talks with athletes who were sexually abused by a disgraced former national team doctor.
USA Gymnastics is facing civil lawsuits filed by dozens of athletes who say they were abused by Larry Nassar. Perry said Sunday the legal process is heading toward a resolution. Nassar, who spent more than two decades with USA Gymnastics and abused athletes under the guise of treatment, is now serving an effective life sentence after being convicted of federal child pornography and state sexual abuse charges.
Perry also said USA Gymnastics is in the second phase of talks with potential host cities for a new national training center. The organization left the Karolyi Ranch north of Houston in January. Perry says the new facility will be “a symbolic fixture that represents a lot of our mission and culture.”

Michigan State University alumni mag changed to soften message of sex abuse scandal

EAST LANSING (AP) — Michigan State University’s alumni magazine opted for a positive message after the original issue addressing the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal was scrapped by Interim President John Engler.
The issue is the first since the former sports doctor was sentenced to decades in prison for abusing girls and women, including Michigan State athletes.
The Spartan Magazine’s original front page was slated to be a black-and-white photo of a woman with teal lipstick. The color represents support for sexual assault survivors, and the issue’s contents would have been essays uncovering how the university handled Nassar’s case and what it now means to be a Spartan.
The replacement front page includes only text that reads, “The university, which faced the most difficult challenge in its history, has emerged and is going to be stronger, safer and more competitive than ever.”
Nine short letters from alumni and university deans line the pages of the magazine, some critical of how Michigan State handled Nassar’s sexual assault allegations. But the centerpiece of the new issue is a four-page Q&A with Engler, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The rest of the 60-page magazine was filled with positive stories about events and programs taking place on campus.
Several alumni criticized the updated issue, saying they want the magazine to reflect ongoing conversations, even if it’s not all positive.
“There’s no ducking what happened,” said alumnus Carissa Michaels, 46. “They should have the story with (Engler). It’s important to hear from him, but it also would be good to have other views in there.”
The magazine missed an opportunity to help alumni in their conversations about the Nassar scandal, said alumnus Mike Johnson.
“Nobody is being honest about the good and bad,” Johnson said. “Do that — it will help.”
University spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said the magazine is trying to strike the right balance. The magazine’s three-month production process made it difficult for the editorial team to stay ahead of the news cycle, she said.
“Alumni consistently communicate to the magazine team that they want to know what is happening on campus,” she said. “So striking a balance between addressing the problems of the past but also showing the positive impact Spartans are having across a variety of fields was the desired outcome.”

Michigan State University Interim President John Engler speaks during a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes,” on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 24. (AP file photo)

Michigan State Spartans football players try to learn from scandals at their university

Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio addresses reporters during the team’s media day in East Lansing on Aug. 6. Michigan State can’t win enough football games this season to change the ugliness of the school’s recent past. The Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal and lingering questions about its football and basketball programs have put the university under a bad spotlight. This year’s football team is hoping that players have learned the right lessons. The players remind each other to make good choices and avoid stupid behavior. (AP photo)

EAST LANSING — Every now and then, when the Michigan State football team won’t be together for a little while, it’s a good time for another reminder.
Safety Khari Willis explained the message:
“It’s me, Joe (Bachie), Brian (Lewerke), Grayson (Miller), Matt Morrissey reiterating: Make good choices,” Willis said. “Be smart, nothing out of character, nothing stupid, and conduct ourselves in the right way.”
No matter how many games Michigan State wins this season, it won’t change the ugliness of the recent past. The Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal — plus lingering off-field questions about the basketball and football programs — put the university under the kind of spotlight every school wants to avoid.
Amid that cloud, the leaders of this year’s football team can only hope the right lessons have been learned.
“It’s hard as young people today to make the right decisions all the time. We see that across the country everywhere,” tight end Matt Sokol said. “A player-led team is always better than a coaches-led team, so I think we’ve done a good job as the leadership group on our team to really emphasize guys making the right decisions, representing our program the right way, representing your families back at home.”
Like with Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, all of Michigan State faces being linked with Nassar for the foreseeable future after the former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor was sent to prison for molesting women and girls who sought treatment.
And while Nassar’s crimes didn’t have anything to do with the football team, the program has had its own issues. Before last season, four football players were dismissed from the team amid sexual assault allegations and three pleaded guilty to reduced charges.
Early this year, around the time the Nassar scandal caused a shakeup in school leadership, ESPN reported allegations of sexual assault and violence against women involving Michigan State football and basketball players. The report questioned how the athletic department handled those cases over the years.
Athletic director Mark Hollis retired, but football coach Mark Dantonio responded by saying he’s always worked with proper authorities when dealing with sexual assault cases. The school gave no indication that it doubts Dantonio, who is entering his 12th season as Michigan State’s coach. University leaders have similarly stuck by basketball coach Tom Izzo.
The Spartans could easily contend for the Big Ten title after winning 10 games last season, but off-field issues never seem too far away. At Big Ten media days last month, Dantonio addressed the return of linebacker Jon Reschke, who left the team following the 2016 season after making an insensitive comment involving a former teammate. Dantonio said Reschke would need the support of the team’s African-American players to return. He’s currently on the roster.
“The one thing I want our football players to understand and to learn from is that — and to grow as people from — is that they’re going to have to handle big, big issues at times,” Dantonio said. “Such as standing for the flag or not, things we’ve endured at Michigan State in this past year, they’re going to be a part of that, and they’re going to have to weigh in on things.”
Players say Dantonio has indeed emphasized off-field behavior.
“The way he worded it is: In critical moments of choice, make good decisions,” Willis said.
Coaches all over the country put forth similar credos. That these reminders are necessary is a sign of how often programs can screw up.
Running back LJ Scott said it’s unfortunate that it needs to be emphasized repeatedly. “It’s all around the world, at almost every program,” he said.
Scott had legal problems of his own last season, though less severe and resolved when he renewed a suspended driver’s license. He received some ridicule and now calls that situation a life lesson.

Lawyers: Larry Nassar attacked in prison, deserves resentencing

Associated Press
LANSING — Larry Nassar’s attorneys say the disgraced former sports doctor was assaulted within hours of being placed in the general population at the federal prison in Arizona where he is serving a 60-year sentence for child pornography possession.
In motions filed Tuesday seeking to have the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor resentenced in the first of two cases in which he pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls who sought treatment, lawyers Jacqueline McCann and Malaika Ramsey-Heath partly blamed the May prison attack on the rhetoric of the judge during that sentencing hearing.
During the seven-day sentencing in January at which at least 169 women and girls provided statements, Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina described Nassar as a “monster” who is “going to wither” like the wicked witch in “The Wizard of Oz.” She said she would allow someone “to do to him what he did to others” if the Constitution allowed, and she told Nassar she was signing his “death warrant” with the sentence she was giving him.
Nassar, 54, will likely never get out of prison. Once his 60-year federal term for child porn possession ends, he would begin serving the 40- to 175-year sentence in state prison that Aquilina gave him for the sexual assaults.

Larry Nassar sits during his sentencing hearing on Jan. 24 in Lansing. Lawyers for the imprisoned former sports doctor on Tuesday filed motions in Ingham County asking that he be resentenced by a different judge in the first of the major molestation cases he faced. Nassar, who’s serving a 60-year federal sentence for possessing child pornography, was also sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison for molesting young athletes. (AP file photo)