Lawsuit: MSU knew Nassar raped student-athlete in 1992

Michigan

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD/WLNS) — A lawsuit filed Monday claims Larry Nassar drugged and raped a patient more than 25 years ago, and Michigan State University Trustee George Perles helped bury the allegation. 

The suit gives the plaintiff’s real name, Erika Davis. She was an MSU field hockey player in 1992 when she became injured and went to see Nassar in the spring of that year.

Davis stated in the lawsuit she was told there was nothing she could do about the sexual abuse she suffered and to forget about it. She said her repressed memories resurfaced when she saw herself in one of Nassar’s training videos airing on TV.

Based on the dates documented in court paperwork, the alleged rape is the earliest-known assault committed by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment. It also appears to be the earliest report of Nassar that went ignored or was minimized by MSU officials.

The suit states Davis was “groomed” by Nassar, that he had a cameraman filming appointments and asked that she take part in a “flexibility study through the College of Osteopathic Medicine” during her initial appointment.

A week later, according to the suit, Davis returned for another appointment. This time Nassar gave her a crushed up pill in a drink, which she took thinking it was for her injured knee.

The documents go on to recount Davis becoming woozy and unable to move. It states when she looked at the clock, she  realized she had been knocked out for more than an hour. The lawsuit then describes in detail Nassar raping Davis while she was in a daze.

The suit goes on to allege Davis was a virgin before that appointment and tested positive for a pregnancy after the assault. She eventually miscarried later that summer.

Davis also claims that she told her coach about the sex assault, and that the coach confronted Nassar, got the videotape, and reported it to then-Athletic Director George Perles back in 1992.

The suit claims that Perles ultimately fired the coach, made her return the video tape, and sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the allegation.

Perles is currently a trustee for Michigan State University. MSU says Perles’ last day as athletic director was May 14, 1992, so it’s unclear if his alleged actions took place while he was still at the post. Perles remained the football coach for MSU even after resigning as athletic director. 

Davis, alongside two friends, tried to report the rape to MSU police in Oct. 1992, according to the suit.

“The detective explicitly told them that he was powerless to investigate anything that takes place to the athletic department and to go to the athletic department… Plaintiff Erika explained that the athletic department already dismissed it and the Sergeant responded that George Perles is a ‘powerful man,’ and she should just drop it,” documents stated.

Davis says she ultimately had her scholarship taken away from her.

The suit, names Michigan State, Nassar, several other employees, USA Gymnastics, and Twistars Gymnastics Club, among others, as defendants. It was filed on Monday, the deadline to join in a lawsuit in which MSU has agreed to pay a $500 million settlement.

Nassar pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a several women and girls under the guise of treatment in Ingham and Eaton counties, but more than 100 women showed up at his Ingham County sentencing with their stories of abuse. The number of victims and survivors who have filed claims against him now number more than 300.

​​​​​Nassar was sentenced to between 40 and 175 years by judges in Ingham and Eaton counties, but he’s currently behind bars at a federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. He was sentenced in December of 2017 to 60 years on those charges.

MSU officials long stated that they did not know of any claims against Nassar until 2014. The university fired Nassar in 2016, shortly after claims about him were reported publicly.

The lawsuit, however, states that “Defendant Michigan State University could have prevented hundreds of young girls and women from being sexual assaulted by Defendant Nassar had they only acted appropriately, decently, and lawfully in 1992.”

The lawsuit by Davis, who now lives in California, makes a 13-count charge against MSU for claims including Title IX violations, gross negligence, and fraud and misrepresentation.

In light of the lawsuit, Michigan State University released the following statement Tuesday:

“We are deeply sorry for the abuses Larry Nassar has committed, and for the trauma experienced by all sexual assault survivors.   Sexual abuse, assault and relationship violence are not tolerated in our campus community.  While the protocols and procedures mentioned in this lawsuit do not reflect how sexual assault claims are handled at MSU, we are taking the allegations very seriously and looking into the situation.    MSU is working diligently to create a campus community where all members feel safe to study and work free from the threat of sexual misconduct and relationship violence.   At the same time, we want to make sure that when survivors of sexual assault or relationship violence come forward, they are treated with respect, listened to and that we provide the appropriate supports throughout the reporting process.”

MSU police said they stand by the university’s statement but did not have further comment.

24 Hour News 8 and our Lansing affiliate tried reaching out to Perles Tuesday but have not yet heard back. Phone calls to other MSU Board of Trustees’ members also weren’t returned. 

Davis’ attorneys initially returned a call from 24 Hour News 8 but did not respond when asked for further comment. 

Given the allegations against Perles, 24 Hour News 8 has requested MSU documents from his time as athletic director through the Freedom of Information Act. Previous requests have taken several weeks to fulfill, as the university has said they’re dealing with a record amount of FOIA requests related to the Nassar scandal.

The original version of this story was first published on wlns.com.

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