Texas, home of the Karolyi Ranch, files sexual assault charges against USA Gymnastics trainers

Another trainer becomes the first person connected to USA Gymnastics besides Larry Nassar to face a criminal sexual assault charge.

Bela and Martha Karolyi have managed to avoid criminal charges in the ever-unfolding USA Gymnastics scandal...for now. The couple at their training center in Huntsville, Texas.  (Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bela and Martha Karolyi have managed to avoid criminal charges in the ever-unfolding USA Gymnastics scandal...for now. The couple at their training center in Huntsville, Texas. (Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Larry Nassar is currently serving a 60-year federal prison sentence for a child pornography conviction. After that time is served, he will begin a 40 to 175-year sentence for his conviction on seven counts of sexual assault. And once that’s done, he will start serving a 40 to 125 year sentence for an additional three counts of sexual assault. The earliest he would be eligible for parole is in 2117. Larry Nassar will die in prison.

He may soon have familiar company. On Friday, prosecutors in Walker County, Texas filed indictments against Nassar and Deborah Van Horn, another trainer for USA Gymnastics. The two doctors frequently tended to athletes at the Karolyi Ranch, the privately-owned training facility run by Bela and Martha Karolyi, perhaps the two most famous coaches in the history of the sport.

Nassar was charged with six fresh counts of sexual assault of a child, but Van Horn’s indictment — one count of sexual assault in the second degree — is perhaps more noteworthy: it represents the first instance of someone other than Nassar to face criminal charges directly related to the sexual predation of athletes in the case. Unlike Nassar, Van Dorn is accused of “acting as a party” to the assaults.

William Strampel, a former dean at Nassar’s other employer Michigan State University, was also charged with felony misconduct and a misdemeanor count of sexual misconduct, but both were indirectly related to Nassar’s crimes.


Not named in Friday’s indictment were the Karolyis themselves. The two coaches have not been accused of assault, but several of Nassar’s victims have made a point to criticize the couple for their failure to protect the young athletes in their care, and for enabling the likes of Nassar and Van Horn to operate freely and without consequence for years.

Olympic gold medalist Mattie Larson, one of the hundreds of Nassar victims who delivered a victim impact statement during his sentencing hearing earlier this year, recounted the conditions she and her fellow teammates were kept in while training at the Karolyi Ranch.

“The closest civilization is a high-security prison, 30 miles away,” said Larson at the time. “On top of that, there is no cell service. It’s completely isolated, and that is no mistake.”

So entangled was the Karolyi Ranch with the culture of abuse perpetrated by Nassar and other gymnastics personnel, that USA Gymnastics — the sport’s governing body — announced in January they were terminating their longstanding contract with the facility to serve as the official training center for the olympics team.


That news did not appease many of Nassar’s victims, who want officials from the Karolyi Ranch to face criminal charges as well. In May, five of Nassar’s victims publicly asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to take action against the Karolyis. The Texas Rangers, at the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott, began its own investigation into the Karolyi Ranch in January, but during Friday’s announcement about indictments, the Walker County prosecutor’s office declined to include charges against anyone associated with the facility.

“We do not believe there is any corroborative evidence with regard to Martha or Bela Karolyi that they did anything wrong,” said Walker County Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Stroud.

That assessment was sharply criticized by John Manly, a lawyer who represents over 100 of Nassar’s victims.

“At least five adults at the Ranch were aware that Nassar had molested children,” said Manly in a written statement on Friday. “Ms. Karolyi has testified under oath that she was told…in 2015 that Nassar was molesting young athletes. All of them had a duty under Texas law to report child sexual abuse to law enforcement, they failed to do so, and they are not being held accountable.”

A lawyer for the Karolyis incorrectly characterized Friday’s news as an exoneration of his clients, and threatened Manly with legal action.