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Michigan State University Reaches $500 Million Settlement With Victims Of Larry Nassar


Michigan State University has agreed to pay a $500 million settlement to sexual abuse victims of Larry Nassar. Nassar is the former sports doctor for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics. He was convicted of abusing multiple athletes. And hundreds have come forward to say that what he called treatment was actually sexual assault. He's currently in federal prison for child pornography. Cheyna Roth of Michigan Public Radio is here to talk about the news today.

And Cheyna, just describe what's in this settlement.

CHEYNA ROTH, BYLINE: Well, as far as the settlement goes, there's going to be $425 million that's going to go to the over 300 victims that have filed in this case. That's going to get distributed amongst all of them in various amounts. And then we have $75 million. And that's going to go into a trust for other victims that come forward later on, if there are any, against Larry Nassar related to MSU.

As far as the rest of the settlement goes, we don't know a whole lot. We know that there are no confidentiality agreements or nondisclosure agreements as part of the settlement. And we are also being told that, you know, there were victims who were hoping that, as part of this settlement, there would be some sort of an apology or maybe some officials from MSU would have to be fired. But as far as we know, that's not going to be the case.

CORNISH: Michigan State is a public university. Where is this 500 million going to come from?

ROTH: That is a good question (laughter). And MSU, right now, is not saying specifically how they're going to pay for this. In the past, interim President John Engler has said that the money will likely come from a combination of insurance, tuition and public funds. But when it comes to those public funds, lawmakers are kind of already saying that they're hesitant to spend taxpayer dollars on this settlement. So it's going to be likely mostly a combination of insurance, tuition and whatever else the school can come up with.

CORNISH: What have you been hearing from victims since the settlement was announced?

ROTH: They've been having mixed feelings, I think would be the best way to put it. You know, this is an acknowledgment of what they have been through, which is helpful. They say it's going to be part of their closure, and it's going to help them to move forward. But there's still this reckoning that they have with how complicit MSU was in their abuse. And so the big question that they have going forward is - what is MSU going to do to prevent this from happening again, to make sure that they have a culture at their school that is not going to let someone like Larry Nassar thrive again?

But honestly, I think the best person to answer this question is Morgan McCaul. She is a Nassar survivor, and she's part of the lawsuit.

MORGAN MCCAUL: Money will never make it better. But it's that first acknowledgment that what happened to you was real and could have been prevented on an institutional level.

CORNISH: Cheyna, this settlement just covers people who say they were abused by Nassar at Michigan State, right? What about the other victims, those at the USA Gymnastics, for instance?

ROTH: Those are lawsuits that are still being worked out. And the MSU lawsuit really doesn't play into those other lawsuits, although there are some survivors that are part of multiple lawsuits. I did, however, speak to an attorney who has clients that are suing both MSU and USA Gymnastics. And he says that they're maybe looking at a bigger fight from USA Gymnastics than they just got from MSU. He said, quote, "they might want to fight it to the death."

Now, USA Gymnastics has released a statement that says that they are encouraged by the settlement and that they want to get a resolution. But it is possible we're looking at some time before that case and the other cases are settled.

CORNISH: In the meantime, what did the university say? I mean, we've talked about the money here. But has the university said anything publicly?

ROTH: You know, they've issued statements. Various officials have issued statements saying, you know, that they apologize to the victims, that they're looking forward to a resolution. But really, all they've been doing at this point is just issuing very short statements and looking to move forward.

CORNISH: That's Cheyna Roth from Michigan Public Radio.

Thank you for your reporting.

ROTH: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRUCE BRUBAKER'S "OPENING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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