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Explaining Lawsuit Alleging 1992 Nassar Assault At MSU

George Perles
George Perles, seen in a photo from 1985
George Perles (1985 photo)

Thursday is the day we give into the big political news of the week, and this week revealed yet another development in the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. A lawsuit was filed on Monday by former field MSU hockey player, Erika Davis. WKAR’s Emily Fox and Scott Pohl discuss the suit.

FOX: The lawsuit alleges that Larry Nassar drugged and raped Davis during an appointment at MSU in 1992. Davis was 17 at the time. The lawsuit says George Perles, who was athletic director for part of 1992, was aware of the assault and covered it up, and campus police wouldn't pursue it. Perles is now an MSU Trustee.

This assault happened in 1992 when Larry Nassar was a medical student at MSU. Does this mean this is now the earliest case related to Nassar at Michigan State?

POHL: Larissa Boyce has said that she came forward with her story about being abused by Nassar in 1997, and up to now we’ve thought of that as the first time that someone made this sort of charge against him, so 1992 would be five years earlier.

FOX: George Perles is accused of covering up this case. Tell us how that cover up played out in the early 90s.

POHL: According to the lawsuit filed on Monday, it went like this: Erika Davis was a freshman on scholarship to play field hockey at MSU in 1992. After the rape she alleges, friends convinced her to tell her coach, Martha Ludwig. Ludwig is then said to have confronted Nassar, and she obtained a videotape of the incident. She also told George Perles, who was both Athletics Director and head football coach in 1992. The lawsuit alleges that Perles intervened, and that intervention came in the form of forcing Ludwig to resign from her coaching job, sign a non-disclosure agreement, and return that videotape.

Perles resigned as AD that year but coached the football team for two more seasons.

The lawsuit also alleges that the plaintiff became pregnant as a result of the rape and later miscarried. She also lost her field hockey scholarship.

The lawsuit charges MSU police at the time with doing nothing when the rape was reported, indicating that it would be a mistake to take on someone with the power Perles wielded on campus at the time.

FOX: Tell us more about George Perles’ role at the university now

POHL: Perles was nominated by Michigan democrats to run for the MSU board of trustees in 2006. He won an eight year term, and was re-elected to another eight year term in 2014. His seat on the board won’t be up for election again until 2022.

FOX: You cover the MSU administration and the Board of Trustees. Victims and others haven’t been happy with how the Board and University has handled the fallout of Larry Nassar. What do you think will happen at the university and trustee level now that Perles has been named in this case?

POHL: To say the least, the board and interim MSU president John Engler have been harshly criticized over the last year or so. There have been widespread calls for all of them to resign or for the board to fire Engler. A number of recent board meetings have been disrupted by Nassar’s “sister survivors,” including their families, plus faculty, staff and students known collectively as #ReclaimMSU. The August 31 meeting was comparatively calm, though several people did speak during public comment. The next meeting is on October26, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the tension rachet up again after the filing of this lawsuit, especially targeting Perles.

FOX: How has Michigan State University reacted to this news?

POHL: University spokesperson Emily Guerrant issued a statement reiterating that MSU is sorry for Nassar’s abuses and that these allegations are being taken seriously. What’s gone unsaid so far is how John Engler or any of the Trustees might be reacting, and that includes efforts to reach out to some of them including Perles himself. We also haven’t heard back from attorneys representing the plaintiff.

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