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Ex-USA Gymnastics Doctor Sentenced; Michigan State President Resigns


Wednesday was the day of judgment for Larry Nassar. A judge sentenced the former USA Gymnastics doctor to up to 175 years in prison. She said, you've done nothing to deserve to walk outside a prison again. The judge allowed statements by many of Nassar's more than 150 victims, any who wanted to speak.

Wednesday was also a day of accountability for the president of Michigan State University, where Nassar also worked. President Lou Anna Simon resigned. Michigan Radio reporter Kate Wells has been covering this story for more than a year. She's on the line.

Good morning.


INSKEEP: Can you work us through the timeline here? When did victims start reporting crimes by Larry Nassar so far as you know?

WELLS: More than 20 years ago, according to these women and girls. We know that multiple women and girls say they have been talking to their MSU coaches, trainers, staff. We heard from one of them in court this week, Larissa Boyce. She says she told her MSU gymnastics coach that Nassar's so-called treatments were becoming sexual. This was back in 1997.


LARISSA BOYCE: I told somebody. I told an adult. Instead of being protected, I was humiliated, I was in trouble and brainwashed into believing that I was the problem.

WELLS: And we know that from an administrative standpoint, this school launched a 2014 Title IX investigation against Nassar. But that investigation ended up clearing Nassar at the time and letting him go back to work, even as a separate MSU Police investigation against Nassar continued for more than a year. And we know that Nassar assaulted more than a dozen girls during that time.

INSKEEP: OK. So Lou Anna Simon was not university president when these reports began coming in. But was...

WELLS: Right.

INSKEEP: ...The university president from 2004 onward. When, so far as you know, did she learn how bad this was?

WELLS: During - at least, we know that she heard about the 2014 investigation. And she says she told the school to play it straight. But the anger towards her has really been building over this last year and a half. She has been seen as kind of tone deaf on this. At one point, she told victims that it would have been impossible to stop a determined sexual predator like Nassar. In her resignation letter last night even, she said, as tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger.

So victims feel like they're not really feeling, even now, accountability from MSU.

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. She's not saying, I'm responsible for what happened, and I have to take ultimate responsibility because I'm the top person. She's saying, I just want to avoid a political fight.

WELLS: She's certainly saying, you know, I'm really sorry to victims that this happened. But no, nothing in terms of - look, we could have done this better, and we really messed this up.

INSKEEP: Does Michigan State University face further investigation?

WELLS: Definitely. MSU is now under open investigations by the NCAA, the state attorney general, and they're facing more than a hundred civil lawsuits in court.

INSKEEP: Kate, thanks very much.

WELLS: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Kate Wells of Michigan Radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF VETIVER'S "STRANGER STILL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kate Wells is an award-winning reporter who covers politics, education, public policy and just about everything in between for Iowa Public Radio, and is based in Cedar Rapids. Her work has aired on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. She's also contributed coverage to WNYC in New York, Harvest Public Media, Austin Public Radio (KUT) and the Texas Tribune. Winner of the 2012 regional RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Award and NBNA Eric Sevareid Award for investigative reporting, Kate came to Iowa Public Radio in 2010 from New England. Previously, she was a news intern for New Hampshire Public Radio.
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