(CN) – A former doctor for USA Gymnastics pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, while prosecutors say those charges are just the “tip of the iceberg.”
The charges stem from allegations that Dr. Larry Nassar had sex in his Holt, Mich., home with a girl under 13.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a press conference Tuesday that the recent charges against Nassar are the “tip of the iceberg” as police in several states are investigating a plethora of complaints about Nassar’s alleged unlawful sexual activities.
Nassar was arrested Monday, but released after arraignment when 10 percent of his $1 million bond was paid.
Nassar was recently fired from his position as associate professor of osteopathic medicine at Michigan State University. Because university police believe that Nassar’s potential crimes cross multiple Michigan jurisdictions and possibly go beyond state lines, they have turned to the state attorney general’s office to investigate the numerous complaints they have received concerning Nassar’s questionable sexual conduct.
“We’re dealing with decades of effort to go back and identify witnesses and to compile those for submission to the attorney general’s office,” Michigan State University police chief James Dunlap says in regard to the 50 complaints his department has received. The Michigan attorney general’s office says it will work with the FBI as well as federal prosecutors in Michigan.
Nassar’s Michigan arrest comes just weeks after a female athlete in California, a member of the 2000 U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, sued him in Los Angeles Superior Court, accusing Nassar of sexually abusing her during medical treatments she received from him while she was a member of the team.
The Los Angeles Superior Court complaint claims that Nassar “systematically sexually groomed” the teenage gymnast in a six-year pattern of abuse, harassment and molestation. It also alleges the Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics organization and world-renowned coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi allowed Nassar, as the team’s doctor, to molest the young gymnast and other underage athletes for years.
According to the complaint, USA Gymnastics and the Karolyis turned a “blind eye” to Nassar’s seduction tactics, which included sneaking candy and food to the young athletes, as well as befriending them and acting as their confidante.
In September, an Olympic medalist in Sacramento also sued Nassar and USA Gymnastics, claiming the doctor abused her from 1996 to 2000.
The Indianapolis Star, which ran a series on the growing scandal surrounding Nassar, has reported that as many as 30 people have filed civil or criminal charges against Nassar or otherwise accused him of abuse.
In response to its athletes’ concerns about Nassar’s alleged sexual conduct, USA Gymnastics cut ties with Nassar last year, firing him from his position as team doctor.
“USA Gymnastics . . . learned about the charges against Dr. Larry Nassar through a media report,” the organization said. “As we previously have made clear, when USA Gymnastics first learned of athlete concerns regarding Dr. Nassar, those concerns were reported to the FBI and Nassar was dismissed from further involvement with USA Gymnastics.”
The alleged assaults against the Michigan girl occurred between 1998 and 2005, beginning when the girl was 6 and continuing until she was 12. She was not a gymnast, patient or family member, according to authorities.
AG Schuette describes Nassar’s alleged acts against the minor as “predatory” and “menacing.” “Nasser, Schuette says, “stole this young lady’s childhood.”
Despite the high number and geographical range of the complaints against him, Nassar maintains his innocence.
Shannon Smith, one of his lawyers, reportedly said, “[Nassar’s wife and] hundreds of people support him 100 percent. We have received countless emails and communications from other doctors, physicians, physical therapists, ex-patients, ex-coworkers supporting him.”
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 15 in Ingham County. If convicted, Nassar could face life in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.