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Michigan State Defends Handling of Larry Nassar Sex-Abuse Scandal

The university president says the school, which faces lawsuits from dozens of women, took "prudent steps."
Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.AP

Michigan State University’s president defended the school's handling of a former doctor now accused of molesting dozens of patients — even as it was accused in a new court filing of turning a blind eye to alleged abuse for years.

Lou Anna Simon said in a statement that it was clear from the investigation so far that Dr. Larry Nassar "abused the trust of his patients and his professional responsibility as a physician."

But she noted that since the allegations became public in August, the university has fired Nassar, launched a review of his work, and started tightening protocols in its health division, particularly regarding the role of chaperones during exams.

"I believe these are the prudent steps we should take at this stage in light of the allegations made against Nassar, and they complement our already strong commitment to patient and student safety," said Simon.

Simon did not address allegations made in lawsuits filed in California and Michigan by Nassar's accusers that university staffers were warned about the doctor as far back as the 1990s but did not discipline him until this year.

Since the Indianapolis Star first reported the stories of two accusers, Nassar has been charged with molesting a family friend on visits to his home for years, starting when she was 6 years old, and he was also hit with federal child-pornography charges linked to 37,000 images allegedly found on his computer equipment.

Related: 18 Women Sue USA Gymnastics Doctor, MSU Over Sexual Abuse

An investigation into the complaints of more than 60 women who say Nassar molested them under the guise of transvaginal treatments is still underway. And civil complaints against Nassar, Michigan State and USA Gymnastics, the governing body of the sport, are mounting by the week.

Hours before Simon's statement, an anonymous woman filed a motion in federal court in Michigan seeking to join an existing lawsuit there — pointing out, as others also have, that Michigan State investigated Nassar after a patient complaint in 2014.

Related: FBI Says Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar Recorded Abuse on Go Pro

No charges were brought at that time, and the school allowed Nassar to stay on staff and continue treating patients as long as he kept skin contact to a minimum and had a chaperone present during "sensitive" procedures, his personnel record shows.

When the school fired Nassar, it said an investigation showed he broken those rules and had also hid a 2004 police investigation. The 2014 complaint against him has since been reopened.

Nassar has denied molesting any patients, with his lawyers saying that any procedures he performed were medically sound. He has pleaded not guilty to abusing the family friend and to the pornography charges.