The preliminary hearing in the criminal case against former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar continued today in a Michigan court, with four victims testifying about how they say the doctor sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatments. This hearing was a continuation of the proceedings that started on May 12. Nassar had pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Today’s hearing began with the cross examination of Victim D by the defense attorneys. (She had been questioned by the prosecution three weeks prior.) The focus of the questioning, at least initially, was Victim D’s injury history and whether or not her condition improved after being treated by Nassar.
The defense also wanted to question the victim as to whether or not she had filed a civil suit against Nassar, but the judge stopped that line of questioning because the victim is a minor and can’t hire an attorney for herself. On redirect, the prosecutor asked the witness whether or not Nassar had asked for her consent before the penetration. She said he had not, and she then differentiated between the penetrative parts of the “treatment” and the non-penetrative parts.
After a brief recess to determine which members of the media could remain in the courtroom, the hearing continued with the questioning of Victim A, a teenage gymnast at Twistars, the club that Nassar had been affiliated with until the first round of abuse allegations last September. It’s at Twistars that Victim A first encountered Nassar, where he treated her for a rib injury.
Later, when Victim A was 11 and dealing with a foot injury, she went to Nassar’s clinic office with her father. She said her family knew Nassar professionally through Michigan State.
Nassar told the victim’s father that her treatment would take awhile and gave her a pair of baggy shorts to change into. The victim was not wearing any underwear. When Nassar returns, he was alone and not wearing gloves, she said. Almost immediately, he digitally penetrated her, which greatly confused her.
She said no one else was in the room before the massage and no consent or prior notice had been given. Victim A said that she didn’t tell her parents because she believed it was legitimate medical treatment. Victim A did note that when her mother, a doctor, accompanied her to Nassar, he didn’t penetrate her on those visits.
Victim A said that the gymnasts at Twistars would discuss Nassar’s methods among themselves.
When Victim A heard about Rachael Denhollander’s and Jane Doe’s allegations against Nassar in the Indianapolis Star last year, she decided to tell her parents about what had happened to her. Her mother called the police, who interviewed her at Small Talk, a place for kids who had been sexually abused. She initially told the police she wasn’t penetrated because she didn’t know what it meant.
Victim A also spoke about how the realization about the abuse has affected her.
Victim A said that it wasn’t until she read the account in the Star that she better understood what had happened to her because the details in Denhollander’s story closely resembled her own experience.
After lunch, two more victims testified. Victim E, now 18, started gymnastics at age 2. She was 12 when she first started seeing Nassar.
Victim E said that when she was 13, Nassar penetrated her during treatment, claiming it was myofascial release.
According to the victim, Nassar never discussed penetration with her or her father.
Nassar also engaged in grooming behaviors, giving the victim a present shortly after the 2012 Olympics.
This was the only time that Nassar penetrated her. She said she indicated to her father afterwards that Nassar had done something weird.
Victim E said that the exercises Nassar gave her to do at home helped her but she didn’t feel that what he did during the appointments did much to alleviate her pain.
Like several other women who have come forward, Victim E said that the account in the Star helped her realize she had been sexually abused during that appointment.
During cross examination, Shannon Smith, one of two defense lawyers on Nassar’s team, opened by talking about the fact that she has a daughter who does gymnastics at Victim E’s gym.
Smith then focused on the issue of gloves, or the lack thereof, during Nassar’s penetrative treatments. (They did this with the previous witness.) Many of the victims have said that the absence of gloves during treatments to the genital area was one of the indications that something was amiss; the defense is trying to make the case that this is not as significant as the prosecution and victims are saying it is.
Smith also questioned her about the gift Nassar gave her, pointing out that Nassar gave it to her in front of her father and indicated that Nassar brought back pins for many other patients. Victim E agreed that this was accurate
The final witness to testify was Victim B, who was treated by Nassar for severe back pain when she was 11. Like several others before her, she said that a parent was in the room while Nassar treated her but that her mother’s view was obstructed. She said that Nassar digitally penetrated vagina during her during treatment and she never gave him permission to do this.
She said that during her last visit, he gave her leotard.
Victim B said she first told her parents about what Nassar had done to her after she read the Star’s story on the first allegations.
The defense would seize upon Victim B’s belated awareness that she had been abused (as they did with previous witnesses) to suggest that the Star article influenced them.
Victim B said that the fact that Nassar never sought consent for penetration was problematic. The defense attorney pointed out that her mother drove her to her appointments with Nassar, but didn’t directly address the issue of whether or not she and her mother, since she was a minor, consented to an invasive procedure involving penetration.
The next preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 23.