Larry Nassar accusers question when Karolyis learned of sex abuse

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Gymnasts who were molested by doctor Larry Nassar are stepping up their attack on legendary Olympic coaches Martha and Bela Karolyi, with a call for Texas’ top prosecutor to take action.

The athletes’ attorneys say the Karolyis may have violated child protection statutes by not alerting authorities to concerns about Nassar in the summer of 2015 — more than a year before he was publicly unmasked as a predator who penetrated young patients with ungloved hands under the guise of medical treatments.

Larry Nassar accusers question when Karolyis learned of sex abuse
Larry Nassar accusers question when Karolyis learned of sex abuse

Gymnasts plan to hold a news conference outside AG Ken Paxton’s office in Austin on Thursday to ask for an investigation.

Image: Rio de Janeiro
From left, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman speak to team coordinator Martha Karolyi during Olympic training in RIo de Janeiro on April 8, 2016.Damir Sagolj / Reuters file

Jamie Dantzcher, a member of the 2000 Olympic team, said an ongoing investigation by the Texas Rangers and the Walker County sheriff’s office into what happened at the ranch isn’t enough.

“I don’t understand why the Texas Attorney General wouldn’t do a thorough investigation,” she said. “Is this not a serious issue?”

In court papers filed last month, the Karolyis said that when USA Gymnastics informed them in 2015 that Nassar, who was USAG’s team doctor, would not be returning to training camps at the ranch because of concern over his treatments, the sports federation didn’t say he was suspected of sexual abuse.

“The Karolyis first learned of the exact nature of Nassar’s conduct leading to his dismissal — e.g. allegations of sexual misconduct — sometime after the 2016 Summer Olympics,” they said in a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

That prompted John Manly — who represents many of Nassar’s accusers, including two who are suing the Karolyis — to release a snippet of a videotaped lawsuit deposition of Martha Karolyi.

“Were you ever advised by any USAG official in or around June of 2015 that they had received a complaint that Dr. Nassar had molested a national team gymnast at the ranch?” Manly asked during the May 2017 deposition.

Karolyi’s lawyer objected to the way the question was posed but allowed his client to answer.

“Yes, I did,” Karolyi said.

Asked who told her, she said it was Steve Penny, who was the president of USA Gymnastics in 2015 but later stepped down under fire over his handling of the allegations against Nassar.

Image: Larry Nassar sits in court listening to statements before being sentenced
Larry Nassar before being sentenced by Judge Janice Cunningham in Eaton County Circuit Court on Feb. 5, 2018.Scott Olson / Getty Images

An attorney for the Karolyis told NBC News that Martha misspoke.

“Multiple objections were made to the question given its irrelevance to sexual assaults alleged to have occurred in prior years,” the lawyer, Gary Jewell, said in a statement.

“After the objections were made for the record, Martha answered the question (without it being repeated back to her) and she mistakenly answered ‘Yes, I did.’

“It is not uncommon in a deposition for a deponent to misunderstand a question or misspeak. Martha misunderstood the question and misspoke,” Jewell wrote. “It was not realized until much later that she was not precise with her earlier testimony.”

The timing is important because after USA Gymnastics received the first complaint about Nassar, it hired an investigator and waited six weeks to alert the FBI — which took a year to meet with the gymnasts and never spoke to the Karolyis.

During that year, Nassar continued to treat, and allegedly molest, patients at his Michigan State University practice, which has said it was not notified of the allegations or the investigation by USA Gymnastics or the FBI.

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