Michi­gan State agrees to pay $500M to set­tle Nas­sar claims

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By David Eg­gert and Ed White

LANSING, MICH. » Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity agreed to pay $500 mil­lion to set­tle claims from more than 300 women and girls who said they were as­saulted by sports doc­tor Larry Nas­sar in the worst sex-abuse case in sports his­tory, of­fi­cials an­nounced Wed­nes­day.

The deal sur­passes the $100 mil­lion-plus paid by Penn State Uni­ver­sity to set­tle claims by at least 35 peo­ple who ac­cused as­sis­tant football coach Jerry San­dusky of sex­ual abuse, though the Nas­sar deal in­volves far more vic­tims.

“We are truly sorry to all the sur­vivors and their fam­i­lies for what they have been through, and we ad­mire the courage it has taken to tell their sto­ries,” said Brian Bres­lin, chair­man of Michi­gan State’s gov­ern­ing board. “We rec­og­nize the need for change on our cam­pus and in our com­mu­nity around sex­ual as­sault aware­ness and pre­ven­tion.”

It’s not clear how much each vic­tim will re­ceive, although the money will not be di­vided equally. It’s also un­clear where the money will come from. Uni­ver­sity spokes­woman Emily Guer­rant said school lead­ers will now work on a way to pay the bill.

Rachael Den­hol­lan­der of Louisville, Ken­tucky, who in 2016 was the first woman to pub­licly iden­tify her­self as a vic­tim, said the agree­ment “re­flects the in­cred­i­ble dam­age which took place on MSU’s cam­pus.” But she said she still has not seen any “mean­ing­ful re­form” at the uni­ver­sity.

Nas­sar treated cam­pus ath­letes and scores of young gymnasts at his Michi­gan State of­fice, build­ing an in­ter­na­tional reputation while work­ing at the same time for USA Gym­nas­tics, which trains Olympians.

The uni­ver­sity and lawyers for 332 vic­tims an­nounced the deal af­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing pri­vately with the help of a me­di­a­tor. Un­der the agree­ment, $425 mil­lion will be paid to cur­rent claimants and $75 mil­lion will be set aside for any fu­ture claims. Lawyers will also be com­pen­sated out of the $500 mil­lion pool.

Michi­gan State was ac­cused of ig­nor­ing or dis­miss­ing com­plaints about Nas­sar, some as far back as the 1990s. The school had in­sisted that no one cov­ered up as­saults, although Nas­sar’s boss, for­mer med­i­cal school dean Wil­liam Stram­pel, was later charged with fail­ing to prop­erly su­per­vise him and com­mit­ting his own sex­ual mis­con­duct.

Nas­sar, 54, pleaded guilty to mo­lest­ing women and girls un­der the guise of treat­ment and was caught with child pornog­ra­phy. He is serv­ing three prison sen­tences that will likely keep him locked up for life.

More than 250 women and girls gave state­ments in court when Nas­sar was sen­tenced in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary. Since that time, even more ac­cusers have stepped for­ward, which ac­counts for the larger num­ber of peo­ple cov­ered by the Michi­gan State agree­ment.

Nas­sar’s as­saults were mostly com­mit­ted in Michi­gan at his Lansin­garea home, cam­pus clinic and area gyms. But his ac­cusers also said he mo­lested them at a gym­nas­tics-train­ing ranch in Texas and at na­tional and in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions. Nas­sar’s work far away from cam­pus was spelled out in his em­ploy­ment con­tract with Michi­gan State.

Dur­ing the sen­tenc­ing hear­ings, many ac­cusers de­scribed an ul­tra­com­pet­i­tive gym­nas­tics cul­ture in which au­thor­ity fig­ures could not be ques­tioned and Nas­sar was free to abuse young pa­tients year af­ter year. They said they had lit­tle choice to see doc­tors other than Nas­sar, who was renowned through­out the sport.

He counted on his charm and reputation to de­flect any ques­tions. He was so brazen that he some­times mo­lested pa­tients in front of their par­ents, shield­ing the young girls with his body or a sheet. His clinic was dec­o­rated with signed photos of Olympic stars, bol­ster­ing his cre­den­tials to star-struck ath­letes and their fam­i­lies.

Olympic gold medal­ists Jor­dyn Wieber, Aly Rais­man, Gabby Dou­glas and McK­ayla Maroney say they were among Nas­sar’s vic­tims.

Other cases in­volved par­tic­i­pants in soc­cer, fig­ure skat­ing, rowing, softball, cheer­lead­ing, wrestling, div­ing, dance, and track and field.

“This his­toric set­tle­ment came about through the brav­ery of more than 300 women and girls who had the courage to stand up and refuse to be si­lenced,” said John Manly, the lead at­tor­ney for the vic­tims.

The scan­dal rocked Michi­gan State, lead­ing to the res­ig­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Lou Anna Si­mon on Jan. 24 and ath­letic di­rec­tor Mark Hol­lis two days later. The fall­out has also pushed out many lead­ers at the top of com­pet­i­tive gym­nas­tics.

The school has about 39,000 un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents. Its gen­eral fund bud­get is $1.36 bil­lion. Roughly $983 mil­lion comes from tuition and fees, and $281 mil­lion is from the state.

The set­tle­ment ap­plies only to Michi­gan State. Law­suits are still pend­ing against In­di­anapo­lis-based USA Gym­nas­tics, the U.S. Olympic Com­mit­tee and an elite gym­nas­tics club in the Lansing-area.

AP PHOTO/PAUL SAN­CYA

In this Nov. 22, 2017, file photo, Dr. Larry Nas­sar ap­pears in court for a plea hear­ing in Lansing, Mich.

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