More than two years before the serial sexual abuse of athletes by USA Gymnastic and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar became widely known and discovered, the university failed to protect the women in his care. Police reports, originally obtained by the Lansing State Journal, show that Michigan State allowed Nassar to continue working with patients while he was under investigation for criminal sexual conduct by university police, and did not enforce safety guidelines agreed upon after a patient said Nassar sexually assaulted her in 2014.
According to the police reports, Michigan State first become aware of a sexual assault allegation against Nassar in May of 2014, when one of his female patients filed a Title IX complaint with the university.
That complaint led to two investigations: a Title IX investigation from the Michigan State Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, and a criminal sexual conduct investigation from campus police. Nassar was suspended by the school during the Title IX investigation. However, he was allowed to return to work after it concluded and cleared him in July 2014, even though the police investigation was still ongoing.
From the documents, here is an email exchange from immediately after the Title IX investigation concluded—July 30, 2014. The correspondence is between Nassar and his boss, Dr. William Strampel, who stepped down as dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine last week:
I have read the report and my response to Kristine (Moore, who led the Title IX investigation) by email will be:
I am very sorry for [REDACTED] interpretation of my actions during her appointment with me. I am nauseated when I read her account of what occurred. Her interpretations of my mannerisms and actions makes me feel horrible. [REDACTED.] This has a profound effect on me. I am truly sorry.
I am sorry for causing this problem. I am emotionally drained and exhausted. Its impact will forever affect me.
Thanks and per our conversation yesterday I am glad we have agreed to the following:
1) We will have another person (resident, nurse, etc) in the room whenever we are approaching a patient to perform procedures of anything close to a sensitive area.
2) The procedure which caused the patient emotional distress because of her interpretation will be modified in the future to be sure that there is little to no skin to skin contact when in these regions. Should this be absolutely necessary, the procedure will be explained in detail with another person in the room for both the explanation and procedure.
3) New people in our practice will be oriented to be sure they understand these requirements.
I am happy this has resolved to some extend (sic) and I am happy to have you back in full practice.
While this was satisfactory enough for the university to allow Nassar back to work and let him see patients, the campus police investigation didn’t finish for another year. In July of 2015, according to the report, campus police forwarded their report to Ingham County prosecutors, who declined to bring criminal charges in December of 2015.
Even beyond the decision to put Nassar back to work and ignore the criminal investigation, interviews conducted by the FBI together with campus police show that nothing was put in place to make sure Nassar followed the guidelines. Multiple interviewees from Michigan State Sports Medicine told police they had never heard of Nassar’s guidelines, and it’s unclear who would have been tasked with strictly enforcing them. Douglas Dietzel, Clinical Director of Michigan State Sports Medicine, summed up MSU’s passive attitude and the problems it caused in one quote from a police interview:
“How do we enforce those things when we didn’t even know about them?”
Under “additional information” in the report, following the emails, police remark on what happened at Michigan State after the Title IX investigation ended:
It should be noted that at least twelve assaults have been reported that occurred after 07/30/14. Many of the sexual assaults occurred in examination rooms at MSU Sports Medicine and involved the lack of a chaperone during sensitive procedures and un-gloved skin-to-skin contact.
Also during the interviews, multiple people told investigators that they remembered Nassar telling them that his Facebook page had been shut down a few years ago. As one physician assistant described it to investigators, Nassar, at the time, told them it “was probably because he was friends with so many young girls.”
Nassar tricked many powerful people into believing that women and girls would be safe in his care. However, what’s disturbing about these documents is how willing Michigan State leaders were to see Nassar in a positive light, and dismiss the allegation or any red flags about Nassar’s behavior. Not only did they let a man under police investigation for criminal sexual conduct continue to see young female patients, they apparently didn’t even follow their own safety procedures put in place after they were aware that he could be a predator.
Twenty years of Nassar’s abuse came to light in September 2016, thanks in part to reporting from the Indianapolis Star, which set off a wave of more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse. Nassar was fired by Michigan State that month. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison in December 2017 after pleading guilty to three counts of child pornography. He still faces several pending charges of sexual assault.
The full police documents, which were made public by Michigan Radio, are below: