Somehow, Michigan State keeps making the worst sexual assault scandal in the history of U.S. sports even worse.
On Friday, after a week in which Michigan State officials revealed identifying information about a gang rape survivor, some of the more than 250 victims of former Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse confronted the MSU Board of Trustees and Interim President John Engler at a packed board meeting on campus.
The most alarming statement came from 18-year-old Kaylee Lorincz, who accused Engler of offering her $250,000 if she dropped her civil lawsuit against the school. The offer was allegedly made two weeks ago, in a private meeting.
“Mr. Engler then looked directly at me and asked, ‘Right now if I wrote you a check for $250,000 would you take it?’: Lorincz said, as reported by Michigan Radio. “When I explained that it’s not about the money for me and that I just want to help, he said, ‘Well give me a number.’”
Lorincz’s mother was also present at this private meeting, as was MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant and MSU Vice President and Special Counsel to the President Carol Viventi. At the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, Lorincz said she didn’t realize that Viventi was Engler’s lawyer until days later.
At this point in Lorincz’s public comments, Engler interrupted her.
“She’s not my lawyer,” Engler said. “Be careful.”
John Manly, a lawyer who represents many of Nassar’s victims, viewed Engler’s warning as an intimidation tactic.
“Michigan State clearly looks at these women as the enemy, and if you have any doubt about that, I think we can all agree that President Engler just threatened a 4’8″ little girl, saying, ‘You better be careful,’ simply because she’s using her voice,” Manly told ThinkProgress on Friday.
“What exactly does that mean? Does that mean he’s going to attack her? Does that mean he’s going to follow her? He’s going to monitor her social media — oh wait, they did that already. He should be ashamed of himself. He’s just a bully. What are you afraid of that she’s going to say?”
Lorincz told those at the Board of Trustees meeting that she felt very uncomfortable in the private meeting with Engler, especially when Engler told her that Rachael Denhollander — the first Nassar victim to publicly come forward with her story of abuse by Nassar, back in September 2016 — had already given him a settlement number.
“I felt like I was being bullied into saying something and that if Rachael gave him a settlement amount, it was okay for me to do it too,” Lorincz said. “I said again, it’s not about money. Carol Viventi said, ‘Well you’re in civil litigation, aren’t you? That’s what a civil case is about, money.’”
To make matters worse, Engler and Viventi’s version of events do not track with Denhollander’s own. After her meeting, Lorincz reached out to Denhollander by phone and got an entirely different story: Denhollander informed her that not only had she never given Engler a dollar amount for a settlement, she has never even had a one-on-one meeting with him.
“This is a bald faced lie, we’ve never met or communicated. In fact, he’s been asked by political leaders to meet with me, and has refused,” Denhollander told Michigan Radio in an e-mail, when asked about Lorincz’s story. “I have NEVER talked about money with anyone, not even my own attorney. Money is not what this is about.”
Lorincz recalled another horrifying part of that private meeting with Engler — when he referred to the recent arrest of former College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel as “no big deal … just a slap on the butt.”
Strampel is facing multiple charges, including sexual harassing female medical students, having pornography on his work computer, and failing to properly enforce safety protocols and procedures when he worked as Nassar’s boss, even after he told the university he would do so following a Title IX complaint against Nassar in 2014.
“My jaw dropped, and I said ‘Just a slap on the butt? Larry did that to me too and look how that turned out,'” Lorincz told the Board of Trustees.