As Larry Nassar awaits trial on criminal sexual assault charges stemming from his time as a doctor for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, those two organizations are shelling out legal fees to a handful of large law firms.
USA Gymnastics released this week a 146-page report with recommendations for policy changes to better protect its athletes. The report, commissioned in response to the allegations against Nassar, was prepared by Deborah Daniels, managing partner of Indianapolis-based Krieg DeVault and a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.
The report included 70 recommendations for changes to USA Gymnastics, including allowing athletes to report sexual abuse anonymously and through less-personal ways such as a cell phone app. Nassar worked as a doctor for USA Gymnastics from 1986 to 2015 and at MSU from 1996 to 2016.
In one federal complaint, a group of women who claim they were sexually assaulted by Nassar as early as 1996 state that a student-athlete reported the abuse in 2000 to a Michigan State trainer. From 2000 to 2016, Nassar’s victims ranged in age from 9 to 29, according to the complaint. To date, nearly 100 women have accused Nassar of sexual assault.
“The current process for reporting of abuse is not one that encourages reporting by athletes and their parents, who are already loath to step forward,” states the Krieg DeVault report. “There should be additional means of reporting, beginning with a clear statement that a written complaint by the alleged victim or victim’s parent is not required to initiate the process.”
USA Gymnastics did not return a request for comment about legal fees it incurred related to the report. As previously noted by The American Lawyer, federal tax filings by the Colorado Springs-based nonprofit show that the organization has paid thousands of dollars in recent years to Faegre Baker Daniels for legal services. (The firm has been a longtime legal adviser to USA Gymnastics.)
Meanwhile, the Lansing Journal reported Thursday that Michigan State has paid more than $1 million in legal fees for its own legal defense and internal investigation related to Nassar’s time at the school.
The firm hired Patrick Fitzgerald, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and now a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Chicago, to conduct an internal investigation and handle litigation resulting from allegations against Nassar. Detroit-based Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone is also advising Michigan State in the matter.
As of the end of May, Skadden had billed the university for $869,449, including 995 hours of work, according to the Lansing Journal. Miller Canfield had billed $144,469, including 438 hours of legal work.
Fitzgerald and Miller Canfield lawyers have made appearances on behalf of Michigan State in at least seven suits in federal court. Filed by a group of women who allege that the university and USA Gymnastics did not investigate allegations of Nassar’s sexual assault, the suits state that inaction by Michigan State and USA Gymnastics led to further assaults on at least 18 girls.
Nassar is facing criminal charges in Michigan related to his alleged assaults that could see him spend the rest of his life in prison. Nassar is also facing three counts of federal child pornography charges, which carry up to 40 years in prison if he is convicted. Prosecutors have said they found thousands of files of child pornography on his computers. Nassar’s federal trial is set for Aug. 14.