Survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse want USA Gymnastics coaches Martha, Bela Karolyi to face charges
HUNTSVILLE, Tx. — Survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse say USA Gymnastics coach Martha Karolyi knew in 2015 that the team doctor had been accused of molesting young girls at the training center that bears the Karolyi name.
But she never reported the allegations to Texas authorities and should face charges, the women’s lawyers say.
Gymnasts who say they were molested by Nassar at the famed Karolyi Ranch are expected to speak in a news conference on Thursday to demand criminal sanctions for Martha Karolyi and her husband, Bela Karolyi. Other survivors who were abused by Nassar at Michigan State University are also expected to speak.
The couple, who have denied any wrongdoing, ran the training center, a 2,000-acre compound about 70 miles north of Houston. It became the US Women’s National Team Training Center in 2001 and a US Olympic Training Site in 2011 — during many of the same years Nassar was the national team doctor.
The Texas Rangers are leading an “open and very active” investigation into possible misconduct at the ranch, said prosecutor Stephanie Stroud of the Walker County District Attorney’s Office. The office will likely bring evidence to a grand jury “before the end of the summer,” she said.
“They are interviewing and looking at evidence along with potential offenses,” she said. “This is a big task. It is multifaceted and it spans a long period of time and that’s why the investigation is taking time.”
Who knew what when?
Attorney John Manly deposed Martha Karolyi in 2017 as part of a civil lawsuit filed by former gymnast Mattie Larson, which claims the Karolyis “turned a blind eye to the perpetrator Nassar’s sexual abuse of children at the Ranch.”
According to the transcript of the deposition, which was obtained exclusively by CNN earlier this year, Manly asked Karolyi: “Were you ever advised by any USAG official in or around June 2015 that they had received a complaint that Dr. Nassar had molested a National Team gymnast at the ranch?”
Karolyi answered, “Yes, I did.”
She went on to say that former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny informed her of the allegations, according to the transcript.
Now, Martha Karolyi’s lawyer says she misspoke in the deposition and he reiterated her previous claim that she had no knowledge of the allegations until the summer of 2016.
“It is not uncommon in a deposition for a deponent to misunderstand a question or misspeak. Martha misunderstood the question and misspoke,” lawyer Gary Jewell said in a statement.
“We apologize for any confusion this may have caused and look forward to proving the facts alleged in the Karolyis’ lawsuit at a public trial in Walker County, where her credibility will be solely judged by a jury — as opposed to counsel or the media.”
‘She was not precise with her earlier testimony’
The Karolyis stand by the timeline they gave in a lawsuit filed against the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, their lawyer said.
The Karolyis are suing the two organizations for canceling plans to purchase their ranch after Nassar’s arrest, citing the “breaches of contract and duties owed to plaintiffs which have resulted in severe damages to plaintiffs’ reputation, health, and real property.”
In the lawsuit, the couple said they were first informed of possible misconduct by Nassar in 2015. According to the complaint, Perry told Martha Karolyi in a phone call that Nassar would no longer be with the USAG program because of treatment concerns. But USAG “never mentioned that the alleged mistreatment was potentially sexual assault nor did they relay the nature of the treatments at issue,” the lawsuit claims.
In the 2017 deposition, Martha Karolyi was asked a leading question regarding whether she was “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?” her lawyer said.
“Multiple objections were made to the question given its irrelevance to sexual assaults alleged to have occurred in prior years. 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,’ ” the lawyer said in his statement.
“It was not realized until much later that she was not precise with her earlier testimony,” Jewell said.
“Martha is now taking the opportunity to correct that misunderstanding and make clear that, although she did receive a phone call from Steve Penny during the summer of 2015 regarding Larry Nassar leaving the USAG program, she had no knowledge of allegations of sexual misconduct by Larry Nassar until the summer of 2016.”
Penny resigned last year amid the scandal. Nassar admitted in court earlier this year to using his influence as a trusted medical doctor to sexually abuse young girls over two decades and was sentenced in February to 40 to 175 years in prison.