Nassar: Abuse cases should have been handled as medical malpractice

Larry Nassar believes his decades of sexual abuse of hundreds of women and girls was not criminal and should have been handled as a “medical malpractice case,” according to a report from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

The report released Friday was a status update on the attorney general’s office’s investigation into Michigan State University’s handling of matters related to Nassar.

The attorney general’s office says MSU is stonewalling the investigation by not releasing requested documents, and characterizes Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics and MSU doctor, as “defiant” and “unrepentant.”

“It immediately became clear that his statements of remorse in the courtroom were a farce,” the report says.

Nassar claimed that he only pleaded guilty “because he lost his support from the medical community and his patients after the police discovered reams of child pornography in his possession,” the report says.

Nassar was interviewed in a Michigan jail after being sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, but before his transfer to a federal penitentiary, William Forsyth, an appointed independent special counsel, said at a news conference Friday.

Nassar was inteviewed by David Dwyre, the chief of investigations at the attorney general’s office, who said he hoped the convicted sex-offender would be forthcoming about who at MSU might have helped him cover up any crimes.

Instead, Dwyre said he found a man who was adamant that all of his “treatments” were “done for a medical purpose, not for his own pleasure.”

Special counsel says MSU is stonewalling

The status report says that despite a public pledge to cooperate, MSU has hampered the investigation by issuing misleading public statements, flooding investigators with irrelevant documents, such as the university’s “Bed Bug Management-Infection Control” policy, and withholding documents pertinent to the investigation under claims of attorney-client privilege in cases where it did not apply.

The battle for documents is still playing out in the courts. Approximately 105,000 documents have been reviewed so far, totaling almost 500,000 pages. Despite a judge’s order to compel MSU to produce more documents, the university continues to challenge the decision, “which means that, as of this date, MSU has still not disclosed all information that is potentially relevant to our investigation,” the report states.

Assistant Attorney General Christina Grossi said that most of the missing documents are believed to be university emails and text messages.

The report says MSU insisted that all of its employees interviewed in the investigation should have a university attorney present. Investigators saw this as “a veiled attempt … to blunt the candor of witnesses and otherwise prevent them from sharing certain details,” the report says.

Forsyth said MSU officials seemed more concerned with protecting the school’s reputation than working with investigators.

“At some point in time, just admit you screwed up, and take whatever steps you need to take to rectify it. Apologize for what happened, ensure to people that it won’t happen again,” Forsyth said.

In response to the allegations, MSU released the following statement:

“We are extraordinarily sorry that Larry Nassar was on our campus and has hurt so many people. The university is engaged in — and investing in — an intense reform and cultural change effort to ensure that Michigan State University is a safe campus for students, faculty, staff and our community. Today’s announcement shows that the attorney general’s office has found no criminal conduct beyond those formerly charged, even after reviewing more than a half million documents and interviewing 500 people. We appreciate the attorney general’s investigation and the hard work of the many people involved.”

‘A failure of people, not policy’

The investigation is not finished, but initial findings by the attorney general’s Office found that MSU’s failures came from “people, not policy” and that at least 11 MSU employees failed to report Nassar’s abuse.

The MSU employees who were alleged to have learned of Nassar’s sexual assault, with one exception, either “downplayed its seriousness or affirmatively discouraged the survivors from proceeding with their allegation,” the report states. “For as varied as… the survivors’ accounts are, there is a common thread through each: the tendency of MSU employees to give the benefit of the doubt to Nassar, not the young women who came forward.”

Investigators, assisted by Michigan State Police, have interviewed about 550 witnesses so far, including at least 280 survivors. Close to 350 survivors were contacted, but some declined to speak with investigators, Grossi said.

Forsyth said no deals were made with any witnesses they interviewed.

Besides Nassar, three other people connected to MSU have already been charged: former MSU gymnastics coach Kathy Klages, former MSU Dean of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel and former MSU President Lou Anna Simon. Two former officials at USA Gymnastics have also been charged in connection with Nassar’s wrongdoings.

Forsyth said Friday he could not rule out whether more people would be charged in the future.