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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Larry Nassar case: Michigan Attorney General seeks university emails

The disgraced coach was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison last week.

Larry Nassar admitted molesting some of the nation’s top gymnasts for years (Carlo Osorio/AP)
Larry Nassar admitted molesting some of the nation’s top gymnasts for years (Carlo Osorio/AP)

By David Eggert, Associated Press

State Attorney General Bill Schuette is asking Michigan State University for emails and text messages related to Larry Nassar, the sports doctor who was sentenced to decades in prison last week for sexually assaulting female athletes.

It is the first move in his investigation into how the college handled complaints against the longtime campus employee.

In a letter released on Monday, Mr Schuette and his special independent lawyer, William Forsyth, requested the communications of 20 current and former school officials, including the entire eight-member governing board of trustees and President Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis — who both quit last week after Nassar’s sentencing.

Michigan State students gathered on Friday evening on campus to protest the school’s handling of the former sports doctor Larry Nassar allegations. (Jake May/AP)

Also being sought are records related to three people who have been under heightened scrutiny since Nassar was fired in September 2016.

These are longtime gymnastics coach Kathie Klages, who retired last February after being suspended for defending Nassar in a team meeting and sports medicine doctor Brooke Lemmen, who resigned in January 2017 amid allegations that she did not tell the university in 2015 that Nassar was being investigated by USA Gymnastics after the school had cleared him in a 2014 Title IX probe.

Records of William Strampel, the former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine who began a leave of absence for medical reasons in December, have also been requested.

In the letter, investigators asked for Mr Strampel’s work computer, his work mobile phone and his work calendars “immediately”.

They also requested “all records” of any university investigation into the Nassar matter, including a review conducted by former Chicago federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. He was hired by the school and has said no one there knew that Nassar committed crimes.

A message seeking comment was left with a university spokesman on Monday.

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison last week at the end of an extraordinary seven-day hearing at which more than 150 women and girls said he had molested them under the guise of medical treatment. Victims blamed Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee for not doing more earlier to stop him.

One woman, Larissa Boyce, said she and a fellow teenage teammate complained about Nassar to Ms Klages in 1997, when they trained with the Spartan youth gymnastics team.

“Instead of notifying authorities or even my parents, we were interrogated,” Ms Boyce said in her statement to the court. “We were led to believe we were misunderstanding a medical technique. … She humiliated and silenced me.”

The Rock on Michigan State University’s campus which was painted “Thank You” and and includes the names of the women who gave victim impact statements during the Larry Nassar sentencing (Nick King/AP)

Nassar’s accusers have said he would engage in inappropriate touching when they were seeking treatment for back, hip, leg, foot and other injuries.

An lawyer who represents Ms Klages and Mr Strampel declined to comment, citing a lawsuit that has been filed against them.

Trustee Brian Mosallam took to Twitter to demand the immediate resignation of Michigan State Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel Bob Noto. He also called for an independent review of the legal department’s handling of the Nassar matter.

Mr Noto could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

A Title IX probe conducted by the university cleared Nassar of sexual assault allegations in 2014. He was advised by the school to avoid being alone with patients while treating their “sensitive areas,” but the school did not enforce its request. In March, Mr Strampel told a campus detective and an FBI agent that he did not follow up because having a chaperone in the room for a sensitive exam is “health care 101”.

At least 12 reported assaults occurred after the investigation ended, according to a university police report that was provided to the FBI for review by the US attorney.

Nassar, who also has been sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges, will appear in a Michigan court this week for another prison sentence. In that case, he pleaded guilty to assaulting three girls at Twistars, a Lansing-area gymnastics club.

Press Association

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