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Michigan State Reaches $500 Million Settlement Over Nassar Abuse


Three hundred and thirty-two women who were sexually assaulted by Dr. Larry Nassar are going to receive a half-billion-dollar settlement from Michigan State University. This is involving a lawsuit stemming from the university's inaction against Nassar, the former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor who sexually assaulted his young patients for years. Michigan Public Radio's Cheyna Roth has more.

CHEYNA ROTH, BYLINE: Morgan McCaul was just 12 years old the first time she stepped into Larry Nassar's office. She was a dancer who tore both her hip flexors and attended an MSU clinic. Now about to be a sophomore in college, she's one of 332 sexual assault survivors who took on Michigan State University.

MORGAN MCCAUL: When you talk about the number of prolonged, painful nights and, you know, what every survivor had to go through to get to this point, it's been difficult.

ROTH: When she spoke during Nassar's sentencing in January, Morgan called out the university for not stopping Nassar before he could ever get to her.


MCCAUL: Since reports of Larry Nassar's misconduct to Michigan State faculty began in 1997, two years before I was even born, I can't help but wonder how many little girls could've been spared from this lifelong battle if someone at the university had just done the bare minimum and listened.

ROTH: McCaul says with this lawsuit wrapping up, she's focused on changes at MSU. Although she goes to a different university, McCaul has been a vocal advocate for reform at Michigan State. She says there's a problem with the structure of the university that allowed someone like Larry Nassar to thrive for decades.

MCCAUL: I just want to see real change. We have a lot of words and, you know, renewed commitments to experience and accountability, but we're not seeing those structural changes being made.

ROTH: Survivors had hoped to include that type of institutional change as part of the settlement. They didn't get that, though school officials say they're working to prevent sexual misconduct on campus. State lawmakers also say the settlement isn't the only answer to what Nassar did. For months, they've been debating more than 30 bills meant to prevent sexual assault and increase penalties. Republican Senator Margaret O'Brien has spearheaded that effort, which includes lengthening the amount of time victims would have to sue institutions like MSU for sexual assault.


MARGARET O'BRIEN: I appreciate Michigan State offering this settlement and agreeing to a settlement, but we still need to improve the environment for our young children. We need to eradicate childhood sexual abuse.

ROTH: The case against MSU isn't the only lawsuit, and its settlement won't impact cases against other organizations like USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee. USA Gymnastics issued a statement saying it's encouraged by the settlement and that it wants to reach a resolution as well. But attorney Jamie White, who represents about 40 survivors, says that's not the impression he's gotten from the organization. He has clients that are a part of the MSU and USA Gymnastics settlement.

JAMIE WHITE: I don't want to speak for them, but it does appear that they might want to fight this to the death. And if that's the case, we're going to oblige them.

ROTH: The MSU agreement still has to go through several more steps before it's finalized. For NPR News, I'm Cheyna Roth in Lansing, Mich.


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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