After two days of meeting in mediation, Michigan State has settled hundreds of lawsuits filed by survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual assaults according to the Detroit Free Press. The settlements will cost the school at least $500 million, as confirmed by attorney Jamie White, who represented dozens of women who sued MSU.
Larry Nassar’s background
Nassar, a 1993 grad of the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, worked for the university from 1997 to 2016 and served as the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics from 1996 to 2014. It was near the end of his tenure at both positions that his sexual assaults at both MSU and with the Olympic team began to be revealed. Hundreds of women, including 2016 gold-medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney have come forward with claims against him.
His abuse was not limited to gymnasts at the university. Nassar, 54, abused softball players, volleyball players, figure skaters and others. Gymnasts, however, proved to be the group he most frequently took advantage of.
“These problematic cultural aspects of elite gymnastics – obedience, unimaginable pain and silent suffering were expertly manipulated by Larry Nassar to identify, abuse and control his victims,” victim Chelsea Williams (formerly Chelsea Kroll) said during her testimony in January. “Not once, but systematically. … The culture of gymnastics … promotes a fear of challenging authority, an environment of physical and mental abuse and a system designed to limit parental involvement.”
Nassar will spend the rest of his life in prison. Per the Free Press:
Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges and is in a maximum-security federal prison in Tucson, Ariz. He also faces a 40- to 175-year sentence issued in Ingham County and a 40- to 125-year sentence from Eaton County, where he was charged with a total of 10 sexual assaults. Those sentences will not begin until he finishes the federal sentence.
Why the Michigan State settlement is significant
MSU will pay $425 million of the settlement now, and another $75 million will be held in reserve, per White. There are 332 claimants in the case as it currently stands, and that is where the $425 million is going. The reserve will be “set aside in a trust fund to protect any future claimants alleging sexual abuse by Larry Nassar.”
Parents, students, alumni and financial rating agencies will be keeping a close eye on how the money is distributed exactly, per the Free Press. While interim president John Engler has publicly stated that costs will be covered by tuition and state aid, lawmakers have insisted that no state aid be used in the retribution.
Michigan State ended the 2017 fiscal year with $1.1 billion in unrestricted assets — money not legally bound to any one area but often reserved for various projects. Nearly all of that $1.1 billion is currently set aside for infrastructure ($557 million) and programs ($400 million), but that money could hypothetically be shifted around to cover circumstances such as these.
Survivor’s attorney John Manly said, “This historic settlement came about through the bravery of more than 300 women and girls who had the courage to stand up and refuse to be silenced. We appreciate the diligent efforts of Mick Grewal and the survivors’ attorneys across the nation who worked to obtain this measure of justice and healing. We also thank the mediator and all who participated in crafting this settlement. It is the sincere hope of all of the survivors that the legacy of this settlement will be far reaching institutional reform that will end the threat of sexual assault in sports, schools and throughout our society.”
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