Larry Nassar charged with sex assault in Texas
Dallas – Disgraced ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar and a former trainer were charged with sexual assault on Friday following an investigation involving an elite gymnastics center in Texas.
A grand jury indicted Nassar on six counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child, while a former trainer, Debbie Van Horn, was indicted on one count, Walker County prosecutor Stephanie Stroud said during a news conference in Huntsville. Details of the alleged assaults weren’t immediately released.
Nassar is already serving decades in prison for sexual assault and child pornography possession in Michigan, where hundreds of women and girls accused him of sexually abusing them under the guise of medical treatment. They said the abuse stemmed back decades, including while he worked for USA Gymnastics, which is responsible for training Olympic gymnasts, and Michigan State University.
The new charges stem from an investigation at the famed gymnastics training center just outside Huntsville that was run by former national women’s gymnastics team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi. Five former gymnasts implored authorities last month to determine whether the Karolyis could have prevented abuse at their facility. Two gymnasts said Nassar abused them there.
Stroud said Friday that no charges were filed against the Karolyis, who have denied knowledge of any mistreatment at their since-closed facility about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Houston.
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“Bela and Marta Karolyi were interviewed at length. The Karolyis were and remain fully cooperative with this investigation. There is no corroborated evidence of any criminal conduct” by the couple, Stroud said.
But, she added: “It’s our belief that there was a total failure by (USA Gymnastics) to protect athletes.”
The Karolyis are suing the U.S. Olympic Committee and with USA Gymnastics, seeking damages for the canceled sale of their training center – a transaction that tanked in the wake of the Nassar sex-abuse cases. They’re seeking more than $1 million in damages.
Several former gymnasts have filed lawsuits as well. One of them, Sabrina Vega, said in a lawsuit in May that USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Karolyis failed to protect her and other athletes.
Vega, who was on the team that won a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships, alleges the organizations along with the Karolyis ignored signs about Nassar’s behavior or should have known he posed a risk to the gymnasts he treated.
Vega alleges that during medical treatments, Nassar molested her hundreds of times from 2008, when she was 12 years old, until 2012, during competitions and while she trained at the Karolyi ranch.
Texas’ governor ordered an investigation into what he called “gut-wrenching” allegations after the gymnasts came forward in Texas. The Texas Rangers are leading the ongoing investigation, which also includes Walker County prosecutors and sheriff’s officials.
Walker County District Attorney David Weeks said he wants to bring Nassar to Texas to face the charges. Nassar is currently housed at a federal prison in Arizona.
“There are a number of hoops we have to jump through to get him here,” Weeks said during Friday’s news conference.
Congress passed a bill in January that makes members of amateur sports organizations, including those that run Olympic sports, mandatory reporters of sexual abuse. It also requires the organizations to implement standard protections for athletes.
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