GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney was among those who attended Larry Nassar’s federal sentencing in Grand Rapids Thursday.
She’s now joining the call for an independent investigation into the leadership of Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee to determine how the Nassar scandal happened and continued.
Five of the more than 140 women and girls who have accused Nassar of sexually assaulting them under the guise of medical care spoke after his sentencing on child pornography charges. One of them was an MSU athlete who reported Nassar in the 1990s.
“Initially I was told, ‘No, this is not a sexual assault. This is you just not understanding this is medical treatment is by the book,'” Tiffany Thomas Lopez said. “Then I was told, ‘This is something Dr. Nassar has created to help you and the pain you’re in.’ So it was as if he was the mastermind behind this new treatment.”
>>App users: Hear the response from Nassar’s alleged victims here.
Attorney John Manly said when allegations against Nassar first surfaced a little over a year ago, a MSU gymnastics coach passed around a card for athletes to sign showing their support to Nassar.
Former Michigan gymnast Rachael Denhollander, who filed the first criminal complaint against Nassar, said Michigan laws do not go far enough in protecting victims of abuse and institutions enable the behavior should also be held accountable.
“MSU and USA (gymnastics) are the poster children, they enabled someone who is arguably the greatest pedophile in U.S. history,” she said.
Denhollander also talked about her attempts to report Nassar’s behavior in 2016, including conduct by William Strampel, the dean of Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
She said he sent an email to Nassar telling him he was on his side and “forwarded my video testimony around to the office and to the MSU Provost and he mocked me saying my testimony was the cherry on the cake of his day.”
“The system failed these women for 20 years and today we took a big step in taking back these women’s power over Dr. Nassar,” said one of the attorneys representing Nassar’s accusers.
USA National Team gymnast Jeanette Antolin and former MSU softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez were also among the women who spoke about the impact Nassar has had on their lives.
The court previously ordered that victim impact statements would not be read out loud during Nassar’s sentencing, but could be shared afterward. Maroney released her statement shortly before Nassar’s sentencing.
Nassar previously pleaded guilty to ten counts of criminal sexual conduct involving girls and women in Michigan’s Eaton and Ingham counties. He is expected to be sentenced in that case in January.
Michigan State University provided this statement to media Thursday afternoon:
“Larry Nassar’s sentencing today on federal child pornography charges represents another important step toward justice for the victims. As our president has said, we recognize the pain sexual violence causes and deeply regret any time someone in our community experiences it. We acknowledge it takes real courage for all victims of sexual violence who come forward to share their story. His behavior was deeply disturbing and repugnant, as the state and federal criminal charges that he has been convicted of show.
“To your other questions, allegations have been made against the university, claiming it is engaged in a cover-up by university administrators. MSU unequivocally denies this accusation. Moreover, MSU and its external counsel have consistently promised if it were to find any employee knew of and acquiesced in Nassar’s misconduct, it would immediately be reported to law enforcement. As for the call for an independent investigation, the FBI and MSU Police Department conducted a joint investigation earlier this year to determine whether any university employee other than Nassar engaged in criminal conduct. The results of that investigation were sent to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan.
“Additionally, on Dec. 6, President Simon responded to Michigan Attorney General Schuette’s letter regarding Larry Nassar. She instructed Patrick Fitzgerald from Skadden Arps, who represents MSU in these matters, to respond to the Attorney General’s request for information.
“If any other law enforcement agency would like to conduct additional criminal inquiries, we will cooperate fully.”