Gymnastics doctor accused of molesting athletes due in court

A former USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, faces sexual abuse charges. (Provided Photo/Ingham Co. Sheriff's Office)

LANSING, Mich. (WISH) — Key testimony will be presented on Friday against a former USA Gymnastics doctor accused of sexual assault.

Dr. Larry Nassar will be in a Michigan courtroom where a judge will be determining if there is enough evidence to send him to trial.

He’s charged with assaulting seven young gymnasts at his Michigan State University clinic, although university police said at one time they were investigating 80 complaints against Nassar. During that time he also worked for Indy-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Nassar is accused of molesting the girls during treatments for various injuries.

Rachael Denhollander, a Michigan native who now lives in Kentucky, has publicly identified herself as a victim and is expected to testify. She said Nassar repeatedly molested her in 2000 when she was a 15-year-old gymnast seeking help for back pain.

About six weeks ago a judge issued a gag order in the case, limiting the accusers and their lawyers in what they could say about Nassar and the scandal.

But Denhollander publicly released a letter on Facebook earlier this month that she wrote to MSU’s Dean of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel.

In the letter, Denhollander refers to a Washington Post article including emails from 16 years ago when she initially went to police about her alleged abuse. In those emails, Strampel told Nassar he was supporting him.

Denhollander wrote, “The damage is done. Little girls walked through Nassar’s door for years while you were the Dean, and came back out scarred in ways you’ll never understand. And you were wishing him ‘good luck.’ But my sincere hope is that other men and women in authority will watch this unfold and, when they are faced with a similar situation, make a different decision. I pray they will ask the tough questions, and then wait for the answers, before deciding who to tell ‘I’m on your side.”

Nassar was charged with 22 felony counts of first-degree sexual misconduct in February. He’s also facing child porn charges. Nassar has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, saying his treatments were medically necessary.

It was the investigation into former USA Gymnastics coach Marvin Sharpe, who was later arrested and then found dead in his jail cell, that opened the door for some women and girls to come forward with alleged experiences they had as gymnasts in the program.

USA Gymnastics did release a statement on the matter earlier this year.

The organization says that when it “first learned of athlete concerns regarding Dr. Nassar in the summer of 2015, the organization acted without hesitation.” The statement goes on to say: “We hired an investigator who interviewed athletes, which led USA Gymnastics to report Dr. Nassar to the FBI. We then removed him from any further assignments.”

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