Witness: MSU knew Nassar asked her to leave girl’s exam

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A key witness in the civil lawsuits stemming from the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal said she told Michigan State University police that the former doctor asked her to leave an examining room while he examined a young girl — and then she was fired for speaking out.

Diane Rork was an MSU medical assistant.

Diane Rork, a registered medical assistant who used to work at MSU medical clinics, said Nassar told her to leave an examining room before she finished completing a chart of a girl younger than 13 that he was going to examine in March 2016.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Rork, recalling what Nassar told her. “I’ll take care of it. You can leave.”

She told The Detroit News she thought nothing of it until allegations emerged that Nassar was sexually assaulting young girls under the guise of a medical treatment. She said she learned from a newspaper report that he was supposed to have someone in the room with him during medical procedures after he was investigated in 2014.

Rork told MSU police about the incident in January 2017, which was early in the university police investigation. Two weeks later, she was fired from her job after leaving a note on an employee break-room table that included profanity.

The university denies the firing had anything to do with Nassar.

Rork’s story comes as McKayla Maroney, a gold-medal Olympic champion gymnast, filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles against MSU, the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics. In the suit, she alleges they failed to properly investigate, discipline or remove Nassar, who was the Olympic team doctor. She said he assaulted her before, during and after training for gymnastics competitions.

The suit also said that in December 2016, USA Gymnastics reached a settlement with Maroney to keep quiet about Nassar’s abuse. The Los Angeles Times reported the amount of the settlement was $1.25 million.

The latest allegations come as MSU this week released a police report showing at least 12 sexual assaults occurred after Nassar was cleared by the university after a 2014 Title IX investigation.

In July 2014, Nassar had been told by his boss, William Strampel, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, that procedures should have little to no skin-to-skin contact; that all procedures should be explained; and that someone should be in the room with him during sensitive examinations. It also said that new people in the practice would be informed of the requirements.

Former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar

“Many of the sexual assaults occurred in the examination rooms at MSU sports medicine and involved a lack of chaperone during the sensitive procedures and un-gloved skin-to-skin contact,” the report said.

It’s unclear if one of those 12 assaults included the young girl who was in the room when Rork was asked to leave. But Rork, who now works at the Ingham County Health Department in Lansing, said she is speaking out now because she said she wants to live by her Christian values and hold MSU accountable. Rork, 50, said she had been sexually assaulted as an adolescent.

“I am not a revengeful person, but I do follow Micah 6:8: Love mercy, seek justice and live humbly with my God,” Rork said. “I know MSU goofed. I am seeking justice for these girls. (I want to) hold MSU accountable and would like them to publicly admit they failed.”

Rork said she reported the incident to MSU Police Lt. Detective Andrea Mumford in January 2017. That was when Nassar was professing innocence and the scope of his victims — which would eventually number nearly 150 — had not fully emerged..

“She said I was the only person who said that Larry asked to leave the room,” Rork said. “She said that was really important.”

Two weeks later, Rork was fired after she left a note in the break room after someone ate her sugar-free diabetic cookies.

“For them to fire me over a stupid note, it was ridiculous,” Rork said. “They didn’t give me a warning. They didn’t give me a write-up. It was just preposterous. I immediately thought it was because I had spoken out about Larry Nassar. ... They didn’t want someone who knew the truth to be talking. MSU is all about reputation and money, and I was ruining that for them.”

MSU spokesman Jason Cody declined to confirm details of Rork’s story, saying that several issues are being addressed in ongoing litigation, so it is not appropriate for him to comment.

He also said Rork was terminated from the MSU HealthTeam after failing to pass her probationary period.

“While we cannot discuss specific personnel actions, I can tell you the decision to terminate had nothing to do with the Larry Nassar investigation,” Cody said.

At the time of the incident with Nassar, Rork was floating between clinics to cover for workers who were sick or on leave. But she later landed a permanent position in the surgical clinic. When she reported Nassar to MSU police, she was on a six-month probationary period. Rork said she sought advice from a civil rights attorney after the firing but was advised she didn’t have a case because her termination came during probation.

Rork’s story follows the failure of mediation in nearly 150 civil litigation lawsuits against MSU, Nassar and others. Criticism also has grown about how university officials handled reports of abuse by the physician who has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting girls — mostly gymnasts — during his 20-year-plus tenure at the university.

MSU is facing calls for accountability now that Nassar, 54, has pleaded guilty. He has essentially been sentenced to life in prison by a judge who handed him a 60-year sentence earlier this month for possessing 37,000 images of child pornography.

Some have called for the resignation of university President Lou Anna Simon. Last week, scores of victims attended MSU’s Board of Trustees meeting, where officials apologized and established a $10 million fund to cover mental health services for victims. But some say it doesn’t go far enough for the university. Others are still calling for an internal report that university officials say does not exist.

Meanwhile, after months of mediation with the parties involved in the civil lawsuits, a scheduling conference has been set for Jan. 24 when a trial date could be set, said David Mittleman, an Okemos-based attorney representing 40 of the nearly 150 victims in civil lawsuits.

Mittleman said Rork will be an important witness in the cases.

“She completely tears apart the so-called independent investigation,” Mittleman said.