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Lawsuit: Nassar abused gymnast while he was still in medical school

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A woman claims Nassar abused her when she was a young gymnast and he was in medical school

Four more former patients, including a 14-year-old dancer, are suing former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar for sexual abuse.

They join more than 80 other women and girls who claim Nassar abused them under the guise of treatment.

In the lawsuit filed Monday, one woman says Nassar abused her around 1992 to 1993, when he was still in medical school at MSU. A spokesman for MSU confirmed Nassar graduated in 1993.

The woman, who goes by the name Jane YMSU Doe in the court filings, was between the ages of 12 to 14 at the time. Nassar worked at her gymnastics club, says her attorney, Mick Grewal. He told Jane YMSU Doe that he was doing a study on gymnasts for medical school, and invited her to come to his home in East Lansing.

“And other teammates of hers always went to participate in this so-called study,” Grewal says. When she arrived, Nassar asked Doe to do the splits on his living room floor. According to the lawsuit, he measured the distance between her crotch and the floor, then had her take off her clothes and take a bath in his bathroom. Then he had her get out, get dressed, and do the splits again – this time measure whether she could get lower to the ground when her muscles were warm.

Nassar told Doe he couldn’t pay her for her participation in the study, the lawsuit claims, but offered to give her a fully body massage as thanks.

“Nassar proceeded to give [Doe] a nude full-body massage and he digitally penetrated her vaginally and anally,” the suit says. “[Doe] continued to teat with Nassar until about 1997 or 1998. Nassar did not wear gloves or use lubricant, nor did he adequately explain the ‘treatment’ or its purpose.”

But the young gymnast always believed that these treatments were valid medical procedures, until the allegations against Nassar went public in September 2016.

Grewal, her attorney, believes this is the earliest accusation against Nassar that’s been publicized so far.

“This is the oldest, and out of all the other plaintiffs represented by fellow colleagues, this is the oldest,” he says.

Another woman says Nassar began abusing her in 1994. And he’s facing criminal charges for allegedly abusing the six-year-old child of a family friend starting in 1998.

Three others, including a 14-year-old dancer, are also part of this lawsuit. They claim Nassar abused them, either by groping them or digitally penetrating them, in the last three years.

Lawyers, alleged victims seek to block “second gag order”

Meanwhile, attorneys representing dozens of women filed a motion Monday, trying to block a second gag order.

The first gag order was from Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who’s presiding over the criminal case where Nassar is accused of abusing a child under the age of 13.

Nassar’s attorneys argued that the media frenzy over this case was making it impossible to get a fair trial. Aquilina agreed, and issued a gag order on March 29 blocking any “potential witnesses” from making new public statements about the case or Nassar’s guilt or innocence.

Several of Nassar’s alleged victims, who’ve filed civil suits against him, protested. That gag order could keep them from speaking about the sexual abuse they say they’ve experienced, they argued, and could even keep additional victims coming forward.

They sued Judge Aquilina, and got a federal judge in western Michigan to temporarily block the gag order.

In response, Judge Aquilina scrapped her original gag order, and told the federal judge she was issuing a new, revised gag order that was narrower in scope. This time, the gag order only applied to witnesses who’ve actually been named in the criminal case against Nassar. And even then, those witnesses were only blocked from talking about Nassar’s guilt or innocence as it pertains to those criminal charges – not separate civil lawsuits.  

But on Monday, several of the alleged victims sued again, arguing the second gag order is still a violation of their freedom of speech.

If they are called as witnesses, their lawsuit argues, they’ll be testifying about their own alleged sexual abuse as minors, in a criminal case where Nassar is accused of sexually abusing minors. So how could talking about their own cases not be seen as a violation of that second gag order?

“The plaintiff victims’ personal experiences form the basis for their civil cases and some of the other criminal cases pending against defendant Nassar,” the suit says. “The second gag order also states, ‘Nothing in this order shall be interpreted as prohibiting a covered individual from discussing civil or criminal claims against Nassar other than the specific claims at issue in the criminal case.’

However, if the plaintiff victims testify regarding their personal experiences with defendant Nassar in People v. Nassar, Ingham County Circuit Court Case No. 17-143-FC, their testimony inevitably becomes a part of that case.”

And they say Nassar’s defense team will therefore have plenty of motivation to call them as witnesses in this criminal case, in order to silence them – even if they never intend to have actually put these other alleged victims on the stand.  

“Plaintiffs have reason to believe they will be ‘covered individuals’ under the second gag order as defendant Nassar, through counsel, has indicated he intends to name plaintiffs as witnesses,” the suit says. “However, even if plaintiffs become “covered individuals” they will have no way to determine whether they will actually be called as witnesses to testify until the time of trial.

“As a result, the second gag order gives defendant Nassar the power and an incentive to list each and every plaintiff as a witness to subject them to the terms of the second gag order.”

Next, a federal judge will decide whether this argument merits reopening the gag order case in federal court. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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