Testimony alleges years of sex abuse by MSU doctor

Kim Kozlowski, The Detroit News

Mason — A woman on Friday became the first to publicly testify against a former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor who is under investigation for allegedly sexually abusing a growing number of young girls and women over two decades.

Dr. Larry Nassar, center, with attorneys Shannon Smith, left, and Matt Newburg as 55th District Court Judge Donald Allen Jr. rules there is enough evidence in court for Nassar to stand trial on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person younger than 13.

The 25-year-old woman said she was 6 years old when Dr. Larry Nassar exposed himself to her and began seven years of escalating sexual abuse.

“I was confused,” the woman said. “I didn’t know what to think of it. I had no reason to challenge it. So I just let it be what it was.”

The woman testified Friday during a preliminary examination for Nassar, 53, in 55th District Court. Judge Donald L. Allen Jr. bound Nassar over for trial on three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a person younger than 13, which is punishable by up to life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty. No trial date was set.

The woman said the incidents began in 1998 during frequent family visits to Nassar’s home in Holt.

At the time, she said, Nassar’s assaults came after he found her during games of hide and seek or while watching television in the basement of his home. The assaults occurred while her older brother also played in the basement and continued until she was 12, she said.

After Nassar exposed himself to her, he began touching himself in front of her, the woman testified. On another occasion, he threw a blanket over her on a couch in the basement and began massaging her feet up against his groin area, she said. Then, the woman testified, he began sexually abusing her underneath the blanket.

The woman who testified Friday was not a patient of Nassar’s, and the alleged incidents occurred during time their families spent together.

Nassar is being held without bond at the Ingham County Jail.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, who filed the felony sexual assault charges against Nassar in November, called them “the tip of the iceberg.” Nassar also was indicted in December on federal child pornography charges and destruction. An FBI agent said at least 37,000 images and videos were discovered on hard drives on his property.

Dr. Larry Nassar appears in court with his attorney Friday, February 27, 2017.

Since then, MSU has been investigating more than 60 complaints, and more than three dozen women have filed suit against Nassar, accusing him of abusing females ranging in age from 9 to older than 30 from 1994 to 2016. The women accused Nassar of assaulting them under the guise of treatment.

MSU reassigned Nassar from clinical and patient duties as of Aug. 30, a day after a complaint from one of the gymnasts was made to authorities. He was fired Sept. 20.

Nassar had been under intense scrutiny since September when two gymnasts, including an Olympian, said they were sexually abused by him when they were teens. He has denied it.

The incidents happened on MSU’s East Lansing campus, at a gymnastics facility in Dimondale near Lansing and at a USA Gymnastics events, according to the lawsuits. He was a longtime team doctor for USA Gymnastics, which is the sport’s national governing body.

USA Gymnastics fired Nassar and notified law enforcement in summer 2015 shortly after receiving a complaint about him.

But the accusations weren’t limited to gymnasts, according to the lawsuits. Other alleged victims were active in softball, basketball, soccer, swimming, figure skating, field hockey and track and field.

Michigan State University’s head gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages, retired Tuesday, the same day a woman came forward to accuse her of ignoring complaints of sexual abuse by Nassar. Two others have done the same. Klages has not been charged.

During Friday’s hearing, the woman testified initially there was no reason to tell her parents about Nassar because she didn’t realize what he was doing was wrong. It wasn’t until a friend described how she had been sexually abused that she realized that she had been, too.

She said she told her parents during the summer after she had completed sixth grade.

“I said, ‘Mom, when Larry rubs my feet, he uses his penis,’ and my mom went gaunt,” the woman testified. “She looked terrified, and that scared me. She said you need to come tell your father.”

The woman testified that a few days after she disclosed what happened, her parents went with Nassar to see Dr. Gary Stollak, a retired MSU professor of clinical psychology. During the meeting, the woman said, Nassar denied it when asked if he took her feet to stimulate himself.

Her parents then took her to see Stollak, whom she told that Nassar used her feet to touch his genitalia.

“My parents chose to believe him over me,” the woman testified. “Larry proceeded to tell me that if anything like that ever happened that I need to tell someone.”

One of Nassar’s lawyers, Matt Newburg, called Stollak to testify on Friday. Stollak said he suffered a stroke after retiring in 2010 and now struggles with his memory, such as performing simple math problems. He also said he did not keep his medical or clinical files after retiring.

“Is it fair to say ... you don’t remember seeing individuals involved in this case in your clinical practice?” Newburg said.

“Yes,” Stollak said.