Nassar ordered to stand trial on sexual assault charges

Some of Nassar's charges dropped

MASON, MICH. - A day after Rachael Denhollander met with Michigan State University police to say she’d been sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar, Detective Sgt. Andrea Munford met with the acclaimed doctor in a small interview room.

The detective told the doctor police had received another complaint, and he appeared surprised.

"I’m trying to actually help them, not hurt them," Nassar said, of his patients. "That’s the bottom line.”

A recording of their Aug. 30 interview, which lasted about 40 minutes, was played in a Mason courtroom Friday before Ingham District Judge Donald Allen ruled there was probable cause to send Nassar to trial on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The charges relate to six women and girls who testified during the three-day preliminary hearing that they’d been sexually assaulted by Nassar during medical appointments while in their teens.

Four of the counts with which Nassar is charged involve a victim under the age of 13; the other eight involve victims between ages 13 and 15.

Three counts related to a seventh woman, identified as "Victim F" in court, were dropped by prosecutors on Friday morning. No reason was stated in court.

Nassar, a longtime doctor for MSU and USA Gymnastics, convinced the teens that his treatments were legitimate, Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said, “by the mere fact of who he was and how he was doing it so easily.”

“Why would they ever question him?” Povilaitis said. “Why would they ever question this gymnastics god?”

During their interview, Munford informed Nassar that police had received a complaint that he sexually assaulted Denhollander during an appointment in 2000. Denhollander testified in May that Nassar digitally penetrated her vagina without gloves during an appointment.

Munford told Nassar, according to the recorded interview, that Denhollander’s mother also alleged she saw Nassar become aroused during an appointment

In their interview, Munford testified, Nassar said he did not perform intravaginal procedures, but did use intra-anal procedures in injuries involving the coccyx.

Nassar told Munford he wore gloves when performing internal procedures, she testified.

He never denied in their conversation that he could have become aroused during a procedure, Munford testified.

“I’m not purposefully trying to get aroused during treatment, I mean come on,” Nassar said in the recording. “If there was arousal, it’s … because of whatever, I don’t know.”

In the video recording, Nassar emphasized that he explained to patients what he was doing while performing a procedure. He said he asked patients to tell him if something felt wrong.

Nassar expressed frustration that a patient wouldn’t voice her discomfort to him.

“I’m trusting them to tell me if I’m hurting them, if I’m pushing too hard,” Nassar said.

Allen said victim testimony that described Nassar’s attitude as “brazen” and Nassar’s own admission in his interview with Munford that he’d performed similar treatments “thousands” of times influenced his decision to bind over Nassar’s case to circuit court.

“There are only limited situations where something like this would be appropriate,” Allen said, of Nassar's techniques.

Povilaitis said Nassar’s statements in the Aug. 30 interview are “completely contrary” to the “unambiguous” testimony of alleged victims regarding the type, area and amount of penetration that occurred during the appointments.

Povilaitis said the six injured gymnasts who sought out Nassar for treatment had no warning or had given no consent prior to the digital penetration and no gloves were used during the procedure.

She said Nassar used his position of authority as a doctor to “coerce the victim to submit to the act.”

“That’s how he was able to get away with this for so long using this position of authority,” Povilaitis said.

Nassar was fired from MSU in September. He left USA Gymnastics in 2015. MSU Police had also investigated Nassar in 2014, but charges were not authorized in that case.

More than 90 women and girls have filed lawsuits against Nassar, USA Gymnastics and MSU, alleging Nassar sexually assaulted them.

Besides the charges bound over to circuit court Friday, Nassar faces 13 other criminal charges in state and federal courts.

On June 30, he will appear in Eaton County District Court for a preliminary hearing on seven other first degree criminal sexual conduct charges related to three alleged victims.

He is charged with three counts of child pornography in federal court and three other sexual assault charges in Ingham County that are unrelated to his role as a doctor.

He faces up to life in prison if convicted on the state charges and up to 40 years in prison if convicted on the federal charges.

© 2017 Lansing State Journal


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