Nassar victim: Michigan State leader offered secret payoff
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A sexual assault victim of former sports doctor Larry Nassar confronted Michigan State University officials on Friday, alleging the school’s interim leader offered a payoff to settle her lawsuit and pressured her to do so without her attorney present.
Kaylee Lorincz spoke during a contentious board of trustees meeting, where interim President John Engler expressed regret over the university’s response to another woman’s federal lawsuit over the schools handling of rape allegations involving basketball players. Lorincz, who has said Larry Nassar sexually assaulted her when she sought treatment for back pain, said Engler and his attorney offered her $250,000 when the teen and her mother were at the school a few weeks ago to sign up to speak at Friday’s meeting.
According to Lorincz, Engler said to her, “Right now if I wrote you a check for $250,000 would you take it?”
Lorincz said Engler also claimed another Nassar victim had given him an amount she would consider to settle with the university. Lorincz said she felt “bullied” by the encounter.
Engler didn’t immediately respond to her comments. His spokeswoman, Emily Guerrant, said she was in the room during the conversation and does not remember Engler offering a dollar figure.
“My interpretation of the discussion was not that he was saying, ‘I’m offering you $250,000,'” she said. “It was a discussion about the civil litigation and how it was going on.”
Lorincz addressed Engler in a room brimming with protesters, parents and sexual assault victims of Nassar, now serving decades in prison for molesting women and girls and for possessing child pornography. Lorincz was among roughly 250 women who gave statements earlier this year during Nassar’s sentencing hearings in two Michigan courtrooms.
In a separate case, a woman filed a lawsuit Monday saying the university’s counselors discouraged her from filing a police report after three Michigan State basketball players allegedly raped her in 2015. She accuses the school of violating Title IX protocol and claims staff made it clear that “she faced an uphill battle that would create anxiety and unwanted media attention” should she report her rape.
The university’s immediate response to reporters asking about the lawsuit was to decline comment. But on Wednesday it issued a lengthy statement that detailed staff interaction with the woman.
The university faced criticism over that response from people who say it violated privacy laws.
Engler acknowledged Friday that the school “provided an unnecessary amount of detail” about the case, saying some people saw the response as “violating privacy expectations.”
Engler became interim president after Lou Anna Simon resigned in January hours after Nassar was sentenced to decades in prison for crimes involving Michigan State athletes. Students remain anxious over the future course of the university, which has yet to choose a permanent replacement for Simon.
In Friday’s board meeting, Engler attempted to steer focus toward celebrating milestones of the university’s graduating seniors but was frequently usurped by boos and jeers from a crowd clad in teal shirts with the phrase, “I stand with the sister survivors #MeTooMSU.” Some Nassar victims wrapped their mouths with black bands that had the phrase “Silenced” scrawled over them.
Parents of victims were left in the lobby downstairs because their posters of their children’s faces were considered “signs” and thus barred from the meeting room. Protesters who were able to attend instead held up cellphones with childhood pictures of victims.
During the meeting, Engler proposed a 2.97 percent tuition increase, the third lowest in 20 years. Earlier he had teased the possibility of heavy tuition increases should the school’s lawsuits over the Nassar controversy continue to snowball financially.
During public testimony, Engler and his board were castigated for how he handled the public fallout over the past few months and repeatedly told to resign.
“You sponsored my assault,” dancer Morgan McCaul, a Nassar victim, said. “Your time is up. Resign.”
As McCaul’s testimony concluded, the crowd joined her in chanting, “Shame on you,” at the board.