A federal judge has put a hold on a gag order against dozens of women who have accused a top gymnastics doctor of sexual abuse, calling it "overbroad" and suggesting it could deter victims from coming forward.
Lawyers for Dr. Larry Nassar — who used to practice at Michigan State University and treat Olympic athletes — sought the gag order, saying pre-trial publicity in the case could deprive him of a fair trial.
A local judge, who teaches at MSU and is the mother of the school's public relations guru, agreed with the defense and forbid all potential witnesses — which theoretically includes any victims — from saying anything not in the court record.
The accusers immediately appealed, and the federal court on Friday found the order likely violated free-speech laws. A restraining order against its enforcement is in place until a full hearing can be held.
"Plaintiffs are justifiably uncertain if they can continue to exercise their First Amendment freedoms, or if they do, whether they will be held in contempt," the federal judge wrote.
"Furthermore, the Gag Order may prevent new victims from coming forward. For these reasons, the Gag Order has caused and will continue to cause irreparable harm."
Nassar, who was the team doctor for USA Gymnastics for more than 20 years, is accused of molesting more than 80 girls and women under the guise of pelvic treatments. He is also charged with abusing a young family friend and having tens of thousands of child pornography images on his computer.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and maintains his treatments were medically legitimate.
Since the scandal broke in September, Nassar has been fired by USA Gymnastics and MSU. This week, his medical license was revoked for three years.