CHARLOTTE, Mich. — Prosecutors say 265 women or girls have now reported to law enforcement that they were abused by convicted sexual predator Larry Nassar.
Public knowledge about the scope of Nassar’s abuses continued to grow Wednesday morning during a sentencing hearing for the disgraced Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor. The number of reports to police about Nassar has more than doubled since he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in November.
Nassar was sentenced last Wednesday to up to 175 years in state prison for seven of those counts in Ingham County, where Michigan State is located. His sentencing hearing for the three remaining charges started Wednesday morning in nearby Eaton County, where he lived and saw gymnasts at a local club, Twistars. More than 150 people provided impact statements in Ingham County, and at least 65 more statements are expected at the Eaton County hearing.
Some of the women who have provided statements say they believe the total number of girls and women who were abused by Nassar could be much higher. Former gymnast Madison Bonofiglio told the court Wednesday that she knows of “at least 10” other friends who have chosen not to file reports despite being abused by Nassar. She said some decided it wasn’t a good time for them to do so, and others “didn’t think it had happened to them enough.”
“It really makes me sad that some of my best friends think that because they were only assaulted by Larry five or 10 times that wasn’t enough to matter,” Bonofiglio said. “I think this really matters.”
Bonofiglio — along with many others who spoke in the past two weeks — criticized Twistars coach John Geddert, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State for failing to stop Nassar sooner. Geddert and those two institutions are listed as co-defendants with Nassar and others in civil lawsuits that claim they had failed to act when presented with several complaints and warning signs about the former doctor’s actions as early as 1997.
Nassar was cleared of wrongdoing in two previous police investigations and a Title IX investigation conducted by Michigan State.
Meridian Township Police received a complaint about Nassar in 2004 from Brianne Randall. Details of that report were made public for the first time Wednesday morning. That investigation lasted one week, according to the police report. Nassar provided police with literature, including a lengthy Power Point presentation, that explained what he was doing as a legitimate medical procedure.
Police decided to close the case after reviewing the material. They told Randall’s mother they would speak to Nassar about being more clear when performing this treatment to eliminate confusion.
“[She] expressed concern, not necessarily in the medical procedure, but in the way the doctor explained the procedure to her daughter,” police said in the report. “She was also troubled by the fact that Dr. Nassar did not wear latex gloves while performing said procedure.”
Meridian Township Police plan to hold a press conference Thursday to formally apologize to Randall and her family for failing to investigate further.
“We missed it,” Meridian Township Manager Frank Walsh said in a statement to the Lansing State Journal. “We’re not going to hide it. We were deceived.”
Amanda Thomashow, then a recent Michigan State graduate, lodged a complaint about Nassar in 2014 that led to the second police investigation and the Title IX review. County prosecutors decided not to charge Nassar after a 20-month investigation by Michigan State University police, but suggested that police tell Nassar he needed to do a better job of explaining his actions when treating sensitive areas on his patients.
The university’s Title IX investigation cleared Nassar of wrongdoing in the summer of 2014. A panel of four experts, which included Michigan State doctors and personal friends of Nassar, decided that Thomashow didn’t understand “the nuanced difference” between sexual assault and the medical procedure.
The Title IX office created two different reports at the end of its investigation — one went to Thomashow, the other went to Nassar and others at the university. The version that Thomashow saw was missing “substantive text” from the conclusion section that said Nassar’s treatments could cause trauma for his patients and could open the school up to legal liability.
Nassar’s supervisor, former medical school dean William Strampel, laid out new guidelines for him to follow after the Title IX investigation but did not tell him to stop using the procedure. Strampel did not put any system in place to make sure Nassar was following the new guidelines and allowed him to return to seeing patients despite the police investigation, which remained open for more than 16 months.
Michigan’s attorney general’s office announced this past weekend that it would conduct a thorough investigation to determine if anyone at the university committed crimes by failing to act on complaints about Nassar sooner. Attorney General Bill Schuette and special counsel William Forsyth asked the school to provide Strampel’s computer, cell phone, work calendars and personnel records as part of that investigation.
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