Wieber files suit in Nassar scandal

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Attorneys for Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Jordyn Wieber filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, saying they knowingly failed to protect her and others from sexual abuse by former team doctor Larry Nassar.

Wieber repeatedly was molested by Nassar from age 12 or 13 until she was 17 years old, according to her attorney, John Manly, who called MSU and USA Gymnastics “enablers” that allowed the abuse to continue.

The DeWitt native was among the “Fierce 5” gymnasts who won the gold medal in the women’s team competition at the 2012 Olympics in London.

The complaint includes 12 claims — from fraud and negligence to failure to warn, sexual battery and gender violence — against Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and its former president, Steve Penny and former Chairman Paul Parilla; and Larry Nassar, the former MSU osteopath and USA Gymnastics team physician.

“My teammates and I were subjected Larry Nassar every single month at the national team training center in Texas," Wieber said in a statement. "He was the only male allowed to be present in the athlete dorm rooms to do whatever he wanted. He was allowed to treat us in hotel rooms alone and without any supervision. Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of.

"Nobody was even concerned whether or not we were being sexually abused. I was not protected. My teammates were not protected. My parents trusted USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar to take care of me and we were betrayed by both. And now, the lack of accountability from USAG and Michigan State, have caused me and many other girls to remain shameful, confused, and disappointed.”

Nassar, who served as a MSU, U.S. National Women’s Gymnastics Team and U.S. Olympic team doctor for two decades, pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges and 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan state courts. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges and up to 175 years by state courts on sex abuse charges.

The lawsuit claims Nassar abused Wieber on the MSU campus and at USA Gymnastics events across the nation and the world.

The suit also alleges that the defendants knew that Nassar was abusing children but failed to disclose that information to gymnasts and hid it from the public.

MSU spokeswoman Emily Gerkin Guerrant said the university “is committed to coming to a resolution for the survivors.”

“We are deeply sorry for abuse the survivors suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar and are working to make sure that something like this can never happen again,” Guerrant said. “Improvements to our reporting practices, sexual assault investigations and employee training procedures are all underway, including strengthening our policy on mandatory reporting obligations.

“In addition, we’re working to add more counseling and therapist staff positions and to reduce the response times for complaints.”

A Detroit News investigation found that reports of sexual misconduct by Nassar reached at least 14 MSU representatives in the two decades before his arrest; no fewer than eight women reported his actions, the investigation found.

Among those notified was former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, who was informed in 2014 that a Title IX complaint and a police report had been filed against an unnamed physician. Simon resigned in January under pressure over the university’s handling of the Nassar case.

More than 250 women and girls have publicly accused Nassar of sexually assaulting them under the guise of medical treatment. Nassar’s alleged victims include three other members of the 2012 Gold Medal Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Team — Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney.

“The organizations that were responsible for caring for the Plaintiff, and the individuals within those organizations who the Plaintiff trusted to keep her safe, knew or should have known that NASSAR was molesting athletes but turned a blind eye to these warnings in order to maintain the status quo and in utter dereliction of their legal, moral, and ethical duties to protect the Plaintiff; a minor at the time who could not appreciate the risk she was subjected to,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit further alleges that USA Gymnastics destroyed medical records of Jordyn Wieber, “... in order to further conceal the sexual abuse of Nassar.”

Manly, who represents more than 160 women who allege Nassar abused them, said MSU and USA Gymnastics were Nassar’s “enablers.”

“What this lawsuit alleges is that senior personnel at USA Gymnastics, at the U.S. Olympic Committee and at Michigan State had been warned and were well aware that Larry Nassar was an abuser, and that they knew or had reason to know that he was engaging in improper conduct with children,” Manly said Tuesday.

According to Manly, more than 275 lawsuits have been filed over the sex abuse scandal. Most were filed in the U.S. District Court in in Grand Rapids, but about a dozen have been filed in California, where Wieber filed her lawsuit Tuesday.

Wieber alleges she was molested by Nassar while competing in California, and the California Supreme Court has consolidated cases filed against Nassar in that state, according to Manly. Wieber is a California resident and gymnastics coach at UCLA.

The lawsuit doesn’t specify what damages, if any, Wieber is seeking. Asked about potential challenges to the lawsuit, Manly said, “If I were them, I would be concerned.”

“Ms. Wieber is a product of Lansing, Michigan, is a stellar young woman, with a world-class reputation for hard work and honesty,” Manly said. “And she was brutally victimized for years by a doctor that she should rightfully have never met.

“The fact that she has to file a lawsuit to get justice and to force change at Michigan State, at USA Gymnastics and the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) is just hard to believe. She’s a gold medalist, she competed for our country, she brought honor and dignity to our country, and she’s been treated like absolute garbage by all three of those organizations.”