At a meeting where Michigan State interim president John Engler said he regrets the way the school handled its response this week to a recent sexual assault lawsuit, a different survivor of sexual assault publicly accused Engler of bullying her in a private meeting weeks ago.
Kaylee Lorincz, a 19-year-old gymnast who testified in court that former Michigan State doctor and convicted sexual predator Larry Nassar abused her, said Engler offered her $250,000 when discussing an ongoing civil lawsuit against the university and pressured her to “give me a number.”
Lorincz, who shared Engler’s offer Friday morning during Michigan State’s final board of trustees meeting of the academic year, said she told Engler her lawsuit wasn’t about money and claimed he lied to her about having similar conversations with other survivors of Nassar’s abuse.
“I just wanted a five-minute conversation to introduce myself and to let President Engler be able to put a face with the word survivor since he has not met with any of the girls,” Lorincz told ESPN. “Five minutes turned into an hour. President Engler’s main focus was dollar signs.”
Engler’s spokeswoman, Emily Gerkin Guerrant, said she was in the room during the conversation and does not remember the interim president offering a dollar figure.
“My interpretation of the discussion was not that he was saying, ‘I’m offering you $250,000,'” she said. “It was a discussion about the civil litigation and how it was going on.”
Guerrant did not respond to phone calls from ESPN seeking more information Friday.
Engler, a former Michigan governor, took over as the university’s interim president in early February after Lou Anna Simon stepped down amid heavy criticism for how she and the school had handled fallout from the Nassar case. He, too, has been criticized by faculty, students and survivors of Nassar’s abuse for how he has handled complaints since taking office.
Lorincz is one of more than 200 women who have filed civil lawsuits saying they were abused by Nassar. Michigan State and its board of trustees are listed as co-defendants in many of those lawsuits.
Along with her mother, Lorincz was on campus March 28 to sign up to speak at Friday’s board meeting when she said she saw Engler and asked if he had time to speak with her. Lorincz said she met that day with Engler, Guerrant and an attorney assigned as special counsel to Michigan State’s president.
She said she expressed an interest in working with the university to try to improve the way it has handled sexual assault cases on campus. She said Engler told her that they would not be able to work together until civil litigation was over and then asked if he wrote her a check for $250,000 if she would accept it.
Engler also told Lorincz he had previously met with Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar, and that she “gave him a number” for what she would accept as a settlement for the lawsuits.
Denhollander said she has never met with Engler. She said she made efforts to try to meet with him in the past months but was told he was not interested.
“He tried to convince them that I was doing backroom deals with him,” Denhollander said. “No one has given him a number. No one other than Kaylee has met with him.”
John Manly, the attorney who represents Denhollander, Lorincz and many others suing Michigan State, said speaking with Lorincz without an attorney present was at best a questionable ethical decision for Engler and Michigan State. Manly said represented parties in civil lawsuits are not typically supposed to interact with each other without their attorneys present.
“I’d be worried if I were [their attorney],” Manly said. “You’re not even supposed to say hello if you pass each other in the restroom. He was bringing up dollar figures.”
Lorincz also said at Friday morning’s meeting that Engler was dismissive when asked about recent charges against former medical school dean William Strampel, who was arrested last month for assaulting female students. Lorincz said Engler told her, “Oh, that was no big deal. It was only just a slap on the butt.”
She said Engler looked angry while she spoke at Friday’s meeting. She said as of Friday afternoon that she had not heard from him or any members of the board of trustees. Engler didn’t make an attempt to refute the details of the conversation.
“I’m deeply troubled if the comments attributed to Engler are correct,” trustee Mitch Lyons told ESPN.
Lyons said he had not yet discussed the matter with Engler.
Engler read a statement earlier in Friday’s meeting to express regret for how the school handled a separate lawsuit filed earlier this week that alleges three Michigan State basketball players raped a female student. The lawsuit claims that Michigan State’s counseling center discouraged her from reporting the assault and did not provide ample support.
Michigan State responded to the suit by sharing details of the anonymous woman’s counseling records in a press release Wednesday. Engler said that release “provided an unnecessary amount of detail” and that some saw it as “violating privacy expectations.”
That lawsuit claims that Michigan State has “fostered a culture in which female victims are discouraged from reporting sexual assaults when those assaults are perpetrated by male athletes, thus protecting the university, the male athletics programs, and the male athletes at the expense of the female victims.”
Michigan State and the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Nassar-related lawsuits are scheduled to resume mediation later this month in hopes of reaching a settlement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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