“I want to ask you to, as part of the sentencing, to grant me five minutes in a locked room with this demon. Would you do that?” This is the plea from a father, whose three daughters are victims of disgraced former USA Gymnastics National team doctor and Michigan State University team physician and professor, Larry Nassar.
Nassar is the man who, according to lawsuits filed by his former patients and victims, began sexually assaulting his patients as early as 1994. These victims are all young girls and women, with the total number of accusations against him horrifically surpassing 250 women. Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison due a guilty plea to federal child pornography charges, sentenced to 40 – 175 years in prison in Ingham County Circuit Court for criminal sexual conduct charges, and sentenced to 40 – 125 years in prison in Eaton County Circuit Court for criminal sexual conduct charges. Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, has also ordered the Texas Rangers to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct at a USA Gymnastics training facility in Houston. Larry Nassar will spend the rest of his life in prison.
These sentences issued by the courts are just the beginning of the Larry Nassar fallout, with Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics still under investigation. Michigan State and USA Gymnastics were Nassar’s employers at the time of the assaults, and Nassar’s victims have filed suit in federal court naming Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics as defendants, claiming they acted negligently in failing to oversee and investigate Nassar’s conduct. In addition to the federal lawsuits, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has launched an investigation into Michigan State’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints. Schuette stated “It is abundantly clear that a full and complete investigation of what happened at Michigan State University, from the president’s office on down, is required.” The first dominos to fall at Michigan State were the resignation of President Lou Anna Simon on January 24, 2017 and the retirement of Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis the following day.
The NCAA has also opened an investigation of their own against Michigan State. From an NCAA standpoint, the closest parallel that can be drawn from Nassar’s actions are that of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State University. In the eyes of the NCAA, Penn State was guilty of failing to value and uphold institutional control and failing to maintain minimal standards of appropriate and responsible conduct. According to the NCAA, institutional control “refers to the efforts institutions make to comply with NCAA legislation and to detect and investigate violations that do occur.” Though the language is broad, the NCAA Constitution directly states that an “institution’s president or chancellor is responsible for the administration of all aspects of the athletics program.” Though some of the punishments were ultimately rescinded against Penn State, the NCAA was still in a position to implement punishment, which would likely render Michigan State liable to punishment, as well. While punishments are likely to be the end result of these investigations, do not expect Michigan State Athletics to get any kind of “death penalty”. In a precedent set by the Penn State decision, one of the factors in determining whether to impose a “death penalty”, which is the ability of the NCAA to ban a school from participating in a particular sport or sports for at least one year, is the fault of the student athletes themselves. In the case of Larry Nassar and Michigan State University, the victims were not at fault for the abuse they endured, just as the victims at Penn State were not at fault.
This is a situation that is ongoing, and it will take a considerable amount of time to investigate properly. For now, we know that Nassar will be in prison, where he belongs, for the remainder of his life.
My name is Joe Notartomas and I am a 2019 graduate from the University at Buffalo School of Law, with a particular interest in Corporate and Sports Law. I grew up in Southwest Florida, and before law school, earned my Bachelor's Degree from the University of Florida in 2014. Thanks for reading. - Joe