Some at Michigan State University would have you believe the pain their former employee, Dr. Larry Nassar, is accused of inflicting is his fault alone. But over the last several weeks, evidence has steadily mounted suggesting that MSU could or should have known about Nassar’s alleged abuses years before they finally came to light.
“Justice isn’t just prosecuting Dr. Nassar,” said Okemos attorney Mick Grewal. “Justice is also prosecuting the people that enabled this.”
Grewal represents more than 20 women and girls who say Nassar sexually assaulted them , some while he worked at MSU. One of his accusers is Larissa Boyce.
“I think gymnasts were the perfect prey,” Boyce said. “We were so used to being poked and prodded and touched and told to tighten up…He used his fingers to go into intimate areas, saying that it was going to relieve my back pain.”
Boyce is one of the three alleged whistleblowers who say they told longtime MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages about Nassar’s assaults as far back as 1997.
Klages' attorney did not respond to a request for comment from 7 Action News, but last month her attorney released a statement denying the allegations, adding that “she would never do anything to put any (gymnasts) in harm's way.”
Klages abruptly retired from MSU last month, a day after the university suspended her.
Joel Ferguson is vice-chair of MSU Board of Trustees, and the first university official to sit down for an on-camera interview since the scandal broke.
“So far, have you seen or heard anything that would suggest to you that anyone at Michigan State University didn’t handle this in the right way?” asked Channel 7’s Ross Jones.
“I have not seen one thing yet,” Ferguson said.
“But if Coach Klages was told as early as 1997 about this and didn’t do anything, isn’t the university at fault?” Jones asked.
“I wouldn’t say that at all,” Ferguson said. “That’s a bad decision that she made, and it has to be stretched to us by all the folks chasing ambulances, because there’s no payday by her.”
The ambulance chasers, according to Ferguson, are attorneys like Grewal.
“You can tell Mr. Ferguson, if this was his daughter, his granddaughter, would he be saying the same thing?” Grewal asked. “I doubt it.
Attorneys representing Nassar’s accusers say the university’s carelessness is easy to find. In 2014, Nassar was investigated by MSU after a complaint of inappropriate touching. University doctors with ties to Nassar cleared him, but the Dean of the school’s Osteopathic Medicine program required that, going forward, Nassar needed to be chaperoned when treating patients in a “sensitive area.”
But according to claims filed by several women, those chaperones were often nowhere to be found.
There is also evidence that the school failed to act as quickly as it could to learn the extent of Nassar’s potential abuses. He was fired by MSU back in September, the same time dozens of victims started to come forward.
But it was only this month on March 2 that athletic director Mark Hollis reached out to about 3,000 past female student athletes, asking if they had any information about Nassar’s abuses. What took Hollis so long?
“That’s a direct question for Mark,” Ferguson said.
“But Mark Hollis works for you, sir,” Jones responded.
“But that’s the point, that’s something he did,” Ferguson said.
“And as his boss, do you think he should have sent this letter out months ago?” Jones asked.
“I’m not even going to…I’m very happy with Mark Hollis’s performance here as the athletic director,” Ferguson said.
Through a spokesman, Hollis declined a request for an interview. Grewal says Hollis’s letter should have been sent when Nassar was fired.
MSU spokesperson Jason Cody said the school kept alumni updated "via hundreds of media interviews, web postings at MSU sites and the president's letter to the MSU community on Feb. 3, among other things."
“If they wanted to do the right thing when they terminated Nassar, (MSU) could have sent that letter out then, but they waited,” Grewal said.
Despite the evidence tonight suggesting MSU could have acted sooner, Ferguson insists that when the school’s investigation is all said and done, MSU will be cleared.
“MSU’s going to look great. And MSU wants to get to the bottom of this also,” Ferguson said.
“But if MSU wanted to get to the bottom of it, there were plenty of people, according to these victims, who could have. We’re talking about the coach, we’re talking about other doctors, who (accusers say) were told and they didn’t do anything."
“That’ll play out,” Ferguson said.
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.