Some liken Michigan State to Penn State amid abuse scandal
By ED WHITE and
LANSING,– Sports doctor Larry Nassar is on his way to prison for the rest of his life for molesting scores of young female athletes, but the scandal is far from over at Michigan State University as victims, lawmakers and a judge demand to know why he wasn’t stopped years ago.
Some are likening Michigan State to Penn State University, where three senior officials, including the school’s president, were sentenced to jail last year for failing to tell authorities about a sexual abuse allegation involving coach Jerry Sandusky.
Nassar, a 54-year-old former member of Michigan State’s sports medicine staff, has admitted penetrating elite gymnasts and other athletes with his fingers while he was supposedly treating them for injuries.
Some of the more than 150 women and girls who have accused him said they complained to the sports medicine staff, a campus counselor and the women’s gymnastics coach as far back as the late 1990s.
In Michigan, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail and a $500 fine for certain professionals to fail to report a suspected case of child abuse.
Lou Anna Simon, who resigned under pressure Wednesday as Michigan State’s president, insisted, “There is no cover-up.” But the university last week asked Michigan’s attorney general to conduct a review. And in sentencing Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison Wednesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina called for “a massive investigation as to why there was inaction, why there was silence.”
Jennifer Paine, a Michigan lawyer who specializes in child protection law and is not involved in the Nassar case, said there are probably grounds for charging some Michigan State staff members for failing to report what victims were saying.
“The obligation to report doesn’t mean anything unless people enforce. That’s why it’s there,” she said.
No one has been charged in the scandal besides Nassar.
John Manly, an attorney who represents more than 100 victims in lawsuits, said Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee “miserably failed children.” Nassar was a team doctor at USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.
“They had an opportunity, instead of being Penn State, to make them a beacon of how to handle this,” Manly said. “It’s too late. You can’t fix it now.”