Irvine Law Firm Represents Olympic Medalist Gymnast Alleging Sexual Abuse by Team Doctor

There's a dark side to gymnastics.EXPAND
There's a dark side to gymnastics.
Photo by flickr user Walter

An Irvine law firm that specializes in representing sexual abuse victims has filed a lawsuit alleging that a team physician molested and sexually assaulted an Olympic medal-winning U.S. gymnast when she was underage.

John Manly, the Manly, Stewart & Finaldi partner known locally for representing minors who were sexually abused by members of the clergy, on Monday revealed details of the complaint against Dr. Larry Nassar of Michigan and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics. The suit was filed Thursday in Superior Court in Sacramento because that is close to the current residence of the alleged victim, who was a member of the 2000 Olympic team.

Under the guise of performing osteopathic therapy, Nassar is accused of groping and fondling the female's private parts, including use of a procedure he called an “inter-vaginal adjustment” for which there is no recognized medical purpose, Manly says.

The alleged victim, who was born in the early 1980s, was abused in multiple locations of California and the United States and in Tianjin, China, between 1994 and 2000, according to the suit, which faults USA Gymnastics for failing to notify the girl's family, law enforcement and the U.S. Olympic Committee about the abuse blamed on its hired physician.

Demanding a jury trial and seeking an unspecified amount of damages, the complaint claims the alleged victim suffers great bodily and emotional pain, distress, embarrassment, humiliation and will continue in the future to require medical and therapeutic relief due to the trauma. The suit alleges sexual assault, sexual battery, gender violation, sexual harassment, unfair business practices, intent to inflict emotional distress, negligence, negligent supervision, negligent hiring and retention and failure to warn, train or educate.

“Our client represents the very best America has to offer," Manly said of the gymnast identified as "Jane JD Doe" in court documents. "She sacrificed her youth and adolescence, spending thousands of hours in rigorous and often painful training to bring glory to our nation as an Olympic athlete. She had an absolute right to trust USA Gymnastics, its coaches and staff. Unfortunately, they have proven time and again that they are more interested in protecting the reputation of their multi-million-dollar enterprise than the child athletes who are entrusted to their care. Sadly, I believe that our client is not the only victim and others will soon come forward.”

USA Gymnastics issued the following statement Monday: “Dr. Nassar is no longer affiliated with USA Gymnastics. Upon learning of athlete concerns, USA Gymnastics immediately notified law enforcement. Since then, we have cooperated fully with the law enforcement agency, including refraining from making further statements or taking any other action that might interfere with the agency’s investigation. We are grateful to the athletes for coming forward to share their concerns.”

No criminal charges have been filed against Nassar, and his attorney vehemently denies the allegations. But since they first came to light, he has been relieved of his duties as a faculty member at Michigan State University, where he worked with the gymnastics team.

The allegations are referenced in connection with a recent investigative report by the Indianapolis Star newspaper that revealed a long history of lawsuits and allegations of sexual misconduct against USA Gymnastics coaches and staff.

"A Blind-Eye to Sex Abuse: How USA Gymnastics failed to report cases" led to four U.S senators, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), to write a letter to USA Gymnastics President and CEO Steve Penney sating, “We urge you immediately to take specific actions to ensure that allegations of sexual abuse are reported to appropriate authorities and law enforcement, so that children are protected.”

Orange County has a twisted history involving gymnastics coaches and molestations. Former gymnastics coach and Fullerton resident Jason Wayne Scofield pleaded guilty in February 2010 to two felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse, two felony counts of oral copulation of a minor, one felony count of sodomy of a person under 18, two felony counts of digital penetration of a minor, and one felony count of sexual penetration by foreign object. His victim was a 16-year-old girl he met while working as a gymnastics coach at Wildfire Gymnastics in Tustin.

Orange County Register reporter Scott M. Reid broke the news in September 2011 about sexual abuse allegations against the 1984 Summer Olympics women's gymnastics coach Don Peters, who a month later resigned from his famous Huntington Beach gym. Two months after the allegations of sexual trysts with three female gymnasts in their teens were published, USA Gymnastics banned Peters from the sport and removed him from the sport's hall of fame.

The gymnastics sweetheart of the '84 Summer Olympics was Mary Lou Retton, who won the gold in the all-around (and has reported no sexual abuse by coaches). It was watching Retton that inspired Manly's client to take up gymnastics in the first place, according to the lawsuit.

"America just celebrated the magnificent achievements of another splendid group of women gymnasts at the 2016 Olympic Games," observes Vince Finaldi, another attorney for the alleged victim. "It is shocking to learn that the USA Gymnastics program has a long dark history of sexual abuse which must be brought to light and ended forever.”

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