AP News Guide: More fallout from ex-sports doctors scandal
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University athletic director Mark Hollis’ retirement and the resignation of USA Gymnastics board members Friday are among the latest developments arising from the scandal surrounding former sports doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar was sentenced Wednesday to decades in state prison for molestations after an extraordinary seven-day court hearing where more than 150 women and girls gave victim statements or had them read in court. Nassar worked for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, and both organizations are facing criticism over how they handled the abuse allegations. Nassar’s accusers have said they were regularly molested after they sought treatment for various injuries.
Here’s where things stand while Nassar sits behind bars:
NOT DONE YET
Nassar, who also has been sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges, will appear in an Eaton County, Michigan, court on Jan. 31 for another prison sentence. In that case, he pleaded guilty to assaulting three girls at Twistars, a gymnastics club. 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. Geddert said he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes.
WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
One of Nassar’s accusers, Kyle Stephens, said Michigan State needs to be “accountable for everything that they’ve done.” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who handled the Michigan case in which Nassar was sentenced this week, also called for an investigation of how years of allegations against him were handled. Michigan State bowed to pressure last week and asked Attorney General Bill Schuette to conduct a review. He said his office will investigate.
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, said a “full accounting” is needed. The NCAA also has sent a letter of inquiry to the school regarding potential rules violations.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Friday that her agency is investigating the scandal and will hold Michigan State accountable for any violations of federal law. The Education Department already has been investigating separate Title IX complaints at the university and the school’s compliance with providing campus crime and security information.
MICHIGAN STATE DEPARTURES
Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon submitted her resignation Wednesday night in a letter to the school’s board of trustees. That was followed by Hollis’ retirement on Friday. While there has been no evidence that Simon or Hollis knew Nassar was sexually abusing girls and women, some of the women and girls who accused him said they complained to university employees as far back as the late 1990s.
MSU on Friday named its vice president, Bill Beekman, to serve as acting president. Beekman will serve in an interim role until the board of trustees can hire an interim president and then a permanent leader.
COMPENSATION FOR VICTIMS
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 said it has immunity under Michigan law and that the majority of victims were not MSU students at the time of the alleged assaults. Simon previously said that a defense is required by Michigan State’s insurers. She added, “We have the utmost respect and sympathy” for victims.
USA GYMNASTICS’ ROLE
The U.S. Olympic Committee says it also 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.
Three top members of the board of directors resigned earlier this month after calls from angry gymnasts who say the organization did nothing to protect them after they were abused by Nassar.
In an open letter to Team USA on Wednesday, U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun called for all current USA Gymnastics directors to resign and threatened decertification if changes aren’t made. USA Gymnastics issued a statement in response, supporting an investigation and accepting “the absolute need of the Olympic family to promote a safe environment for all of our athletes.”
On Friday, USA Gymnastics confirmed that its entire board of directors will resign.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has begun an investigation of sexual abuse in organized sports. Committee leaders from both political parties have sent letters to the U.S. Olympic Committee, MSU and USA Gymnastics seeking information about how they handled the Nassar allegations. The House committee’s letter to USA Gymnastics says the Nassar allegations “raise serious concerns about your organization’s ability to oversee your sport and protect your athletes from abuse and mistreatment.”
AT THE RANCH
In Texas, the Walker County sheriff’s office has said it is investigating the Karolyi Ranch, which was a training site for Olympic gymnasts. Some gymnasts said Nassar assaulted them there. The sheriff’s office has not said what its investigation is about or when it began.
White reported from Detroit.