Young women abused by Larry Nassar called on Texas officials to investigate what USA Gymnastics coach Martha Karolyi knew about Nassar’s abuse and when she knew it, they said during a press conference Thursday.
“I can’t understand why this is not taken seriously in Texas right now,” said Jamie Dantzscher, an Olympic bronze medal gymnast who was abused by Nassar.
In Michigan, a special prosecutor was appointed to dig into what Michigan State University officials knew about Nassar, the convicted child abuser and former USA Gymnastics team doctor. That investigation has already led to sexual assault charges against Nassar’s boss, William Strampel, who has pleaded not guilty.
But there is no parallel investigation in Texas, the victims’ attorneys said, even though Nassar abused many women and girls at the Karolyi Ranch training center for years.
“We’re asking for the same thing they’ve already done in Michigan, (but) in Texas,” attorney Michelle Tuegel said.
“I don’t think it’s fair as a survivor to stand by and wait for people to do the right thing and make us come and stand in front of media and beg for the right thing to be done,” former US gymnast Jeanette Antolin said.
What Texas officials are saying
In particular, the women and attorneys said that Martha Karolyi and her husband, Bela, the longtime gymnastics coaches, knew about Nassar’s abuse in June 2015 yet failed to protect the girls.
“I think that it is incredibly unfair that Martha didn’t do her job and protect me, because I probably wouldn’t be standing here if she would have,” said Autumn Blaney, a 16-year-old gymnast
The Karolyis, 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.”
The Texas attorney general’s office told CNN it would assist in the investigation if there is a request from the district attorney, the Texas Rangers or the Walker County Sheriff’s Department.
“At this time, the Office of the Attorney General has received no formal appointment or request to join this investigation, which is outside of our jurisdiction,” the office said.
Tuegel said that, from her knowledge, the investigation has not conducted any search warrants at the ranch or searched electronic devices. She urged Texas law enforcement to step up its investigation because she believes the statute of limitations may expire on possible charges related to the case.
“That’s really why we’re here today, because it may be too late if they don’t do so very soon, and we haven’t seen any of that action beyond just statements that they are investigating,” Tuegel said.
What the Karolyis knew and when they knew it
Attorney John Manly deposed Martha Karolyi in 2017 as part of a civil lawsuit filed by former gymnast Mattie Larson, which alleges the Karolyis “turned a blind eye to the perpetrator Nassar’s sexual abuse of children at the Ranch.”
According to a transcript of the deposition, which CNN obtained 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, her attorney says Karolyi misspoke in the deposition. He reiterated her previous assertion 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.
“It was not realized until much later that she was not precise with her earlier testimony,” Jewell said.
But at Thursday’s press conference, Manly dismissively referred to that explanation as “interesting.”
Witnesses are allowed to make corrections to misstatements in depositions in what’s known as an “errata sheet.” Manly said that Karolyi did just that and corrected a number of statements, including times and dates. But there was no change to her statement about what the gymnastics official told her about Nassar.
“Mr. Jewell’s statement is a desperate attempt to explain that he got caught, and Ms. Karolyi got caught, in a big fat lie,” Manly said.