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Orange County Register (California)
USA Gymnastics former top medical official Debbie Van Horn and U.S. Olympic and women's national team physician Larry Nassar have been indicted on child sexual assault charges as part of what Texas prosecutors described as USA Gymnastics' "total failure" to properly handle sexual abuse at the Karolyi Ranch, the longtime training site in central Texas for American gymnasts preparing for the Olympic Games and World Championships.
Former Olympians and U.S. national team members criticized the indictments and Texas law enforcement's handling of sexual abuse cases on the Karolyi Ranch, arguing that the top USA Gymnastics officials, who the athletes said enabled Nassar's abuse, are not being held accountable by the legal system.
"The people who are responsible for what happened on the Karolyi Ranch are still getting off," said Jeanette Antolin, a former U.S. national team member and one of the survivors of Nassar's abuse on the Texas site.
In addition to the indictments of Van Horn, until earlier this year USA Gymnastics director of sports medicine services, and Nassar, an ongoing investigation by Texas law enforcement agencies found evidence of criminal wrongdoing by others in the Nassar Karolyi Ranch cases but state statute of limitation laws prevented additional charges from being filed, Walker County district attorney David Weeks said Friday.
A Walker County grand jury indicted Nassar on six counts of child sexual assault stemming from an investigation of complaints by eight former gymnasts who allege they sexually abused by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment while training at the Karolyi Ranch, Weeks said. The grand jury also indicted Van Horn on one count of second degree child sexual assault. Van Horn was sometimes in the same room with Nassar at the Karolyi Ranch while he sexually assaulted athletes under the guise of performing a medical procedure, former gymnasts said. As of Jan. 22, she was no longer employed by USA Gymnastics, the organization said. Attempts to reach Van Horn were unsuccessful.
Walker County assistant attorney Stephanie Stroud said an ongoing investigation led by the Texas Rangers has not found evidence of criminal wrongdoing by former U.S. national team directors Bela and Martha Karolyi.
"It is our belief there was a total failure by USAG to protect the athletes that were part of their program and to take appropriate action once they were made aware of Dr. Nassar's actions," Stroud said during a news conference Friday.
But former gymnasts said they are angry that Friday's indictments did not include many of the USA Gymnastics officials that failed to protect them from Nassar.
"It's infuriating," Antolin said of the indictments. "Larry is already in jail for the rest of his life. No one cares if he gets more sentences. Debbie Van Horn, OK, it's good that they're holding more people accountable but they're not holding accountable the people who are really responsible for what Larry did to us and that's the Karolyis.
"Which is amazing and frustrating at the same time."
Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison on child pornography charges. He also was sentenced to 175 years in state prison in Michigan for multiple counts of sexual assault.
"Charging Larry Nassar with more crimes makes about as much sense as digging up Lee Harvey Oswald and charging him with JFK's murder," said John Manly, the Orange County attorney who represents several of the Karolyi Ranch abuse survivors.
Antolin and other gymnasts and their supporters said the move by Texas law enforcement will further discourage sexual abuse survivors from coming forward.
"It sends a horrible message," Antolin said. "It sends the message that if you're powerful you can cover up wrongdoing and put the blame on somebody else and get away with it. It's amazing.
"There are so many people who made so much money off gymnasts and they're getting away with what they did. They get to go with their own lives while we have live what they and Larry did to us on a daily basis and that's not fair."
USA Gymnastics chief executive Steve Penny and at least eight of the organization's top officials, key employees and attorneys were aware of sexual abuse allegations against Nassar 15 months before those allegations became public but were told by Penny not to discuss them with anyone, according to emails and other documents. Stroud said Texas officials were first informed in 2016 of potential sexual abuse by Nassar at Karolyi Ranch by Michigan Child Protective Services officials and not by USA Gymnastics.
On June 17, 2015, Sarah Jantzi, the club coach for Nichols, told Rhonda Faehn, USA Gymnastics senior vice president for the women's program, she overheard Nichols, in a conversation with Olympic champion Aly Raisman, say she was uncomfortable with a procedure Nassar had performed on her near her vagina. Faehn had only been at USA Gymnastics 37 days.
A month later, on July 17, Raisman suggested in an interview with USA Gymnastics investigators that they contact McKayla Maroney, another member of the 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning team. Maroney, Raisman said, had confided in her that she had been sexually abused by Nassar. Maroney confirmed that abuse in a July 24, 2015, interview with USA Gymnastics. Three days later, USA Gymnastics contacted the FBI, nearly a month after Penny was first informed by Faehn about the Nichols and Raisman conversation.
In a July 21, 2015 email to then-USA Gymnastics board chairman Peter Vidmar, Faehn, the senior vice president for the women's program, board member Paul Parilla, chief operating officer Ron Galimore and four others were "instructed" by Penny to "not have any conversations again with anyone concerning this issue until further notice."
"There are at least five adults that were aware Nassar was molesting little girls and failed to report it," Manly said. "The message to people who were in charge of protecting children is that in Texas, if you fail to report molesters nothing will happen to you."
Examples of failure to report sexual abuse by mandatory reporters were among the evidence criminal wrongdoing uncovered by the Texas investigation but could not be pursued because of the statute of limitations, Walker County DA officials said.
"They received information and did not act on it timely," Weeks said.
Martha Karolyi also was informed of allegations against Nassar by Penny on July 21, 2015, according to documents provided to a Senate sub-committee by Faehn.
"There are no criminal charges against the Karolyis at this time. We don't believe at this time there's any corroborated evidence to support criminal charges," Stroud said.
Martha Karolyi said in a 2017 deposition that she was first informed in June 2015 by Penny of allegations that Nassar molested Team USA gymnasts at the Karolyi Ranch, according to documents obtained by this news organization. Karolyi's statements contradict assertions made by Karolyi and her husband, Bela, a former U.S. Olympic team coach and USA Gymnastics national team director, in a recent lawsuit that they did not learn of allegations of Nassar's sexual misconduct with gymnasts and other young athletes until after the 2016 Olympic Games.
"Martha Karolyi said in a deposition she was told about Nassar in 2015 and she didn't report it," Manly said. "Then she says later I didn't find out about it until 2016. I don't know how you can say there was no wrongdoing on her part."
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