Nassar to be tried on more sex assault charges

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Charlotte — A 22-year-old woman on Friday sat in the courtroom, her face ashen as she testified what Larry Nassar, a former Michigan State University physician, told her the first time he allegedly digitally penetrated her during a medical treatment.

“The first time he said, ‘We don’t tell our parents about this because they wouldn’t understand,’ ” said the woman, who first saw Nassar when he was treating patients at Gedderts’ Twistars USA, a gymnastics club in Dimondale, a village near Lansing in Eaton County.

Later, she wiped away tears as she described how she felt about testifying against Nassar, who is accused of sexually assaulting her during a medical treatment when she was 15.

“Conflicted,” said the woman, identified as Victim C. “I feel in some way like (I am) betraying him. I know he was capable of being a good doctor and I just feel weird.”

After the testimony of Victim C and two other alleged victims, 56th District Judge Julie Reincke ordered Nassar to stand trial on 13 charges stemming from incidents that allegedly occurred at Twistars, along with incidents at a clinic at MSU and Nassar’s home in Holt. No date was set for the trial, his fourth, but a pretrial conference was set for July 21.

The charges against Nassar, who also was lead physician for USA Gymnastics, include seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and six counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Among the three alleged victims who testified was Victim A, a 16-year-old girl who alleged she was 9 when Nassar touched her between her legs for 10-20 minutes while she sought treatment for her rib. She also testified in May during a hearing that concluded last week in Ingham County. In that case, a judge ordered Nassar to stand trial on 17 counts of criminal sexual conduct. No date was set.

All three victims in Friday’s hearing testified that Nassar sexually assaulted them during treatments for injuries on Monday nights in a small room at Twistars under the guise of a medical treatment.

They said he didn’t obtain their consent, didn’t use a glove and used minimal or no lubricant. The girls would sign up to see him after gymnastics practice, often while wearing their leotards.

“His hand went underneath the fabric,” Victim A testified, saying that Nassar massaged her private parts.

But when she saw Nassar and her mother was present, Victim A testified that Nassar did not perform any treatments involving her private areas.

“Because she is a pediatrician, she wanted to see what he was doing,” Victim A said.

Victim B testified she saw Nassar when she was 10 for minor gymnastics injuries, and at 14 when she broke her back — and saw him every Monday for nearly a year. He digitally penetrated her and said he was massaging a pressure point to relieve pain, Victim B testified.

“It was definitely shocking,” said the woman, now 22. “He was just talking to me like nothing was going on.”

Nassar’s order to stand trial came after one of his attorneys, Shannon Smith, suggested to the alleged victims under cross examination that Nassar was not trying to hide his treatment technique, saying it was done in a room where the doors were open and other gymnasts were often milling nearby.

Smith also suggested that women came forward after the widely publicized sexual assault report by Rachael Denhollander, whose story appeared in an Indiana newspaper last fall.

“The turning point for you is when you saw Rachael Denhollander come out and say, ‘What happened to me was wrong,’ and is similar to what happened to you,” Smith said to Victim B.

She replied: “Yes.”

Smith also said questioned Victim C — who testified Nassar touched her private area internally and externally “countless times” — as to whether she came forward as a result of others believing that what Nassar had done was wrong.

“Is it fair to say you have never called Dr. Nassar’s office and said, ‘Explain to me why this was done to me,’” Smith said. “It’s fair to say that you have never even called other staff at the office and asked why would Dr. Nassar have done this to me? So all of of your information about this technique being inappropriate comes from to your friends who believe it was inappropriate, correct?”

Then, Smith said, the article about Denhollander’s allegations was published, but up until then Victim C had been confused.

“Is it fair to say that you believed something criminal happened when Rachael’s article came out and the whole world said, ‘This is wrong?’ ” Smith said.

Victim C responded that she had been conflicted about what had happened for a long time.

She added that part of her motivation to come forward was because she feels the institutions that Nassar was connected with “need to be held responsible.”

The hearing included the broadcast of a 45-minute interview of Nassar in August by Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Andrea Munford after Denhollander came forward. During the interview, which also was broadcast last week in an Ingham County courthouse, Nassar denied doing intravaginal treatments but said he would do work internally with the anus if the area near a gymnast’s tailbone was injured.

Nassar, 53, also faces a pretrial hearing on Aug. 7 and trial on Aug. 14 on federal charges of possession and receipt of child pornography.

He will stand trial Oct. 23 on three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a person younger than 13 in a separate case.

Nassar’s cases involve a handful of women who have come forward. More than 100 women have filed civil lawsuits against him and 100 have filed complaints with MSU police.

Nassar was fired from MSU after he was accused in civil lawsuits of abusing dozens of female gymnasts and other athletes while treating them for sports-related injuries. He also lost his license to practice medicine for three years.