The infamous sexual abuser and longtime women’s Olympic doctor Larry Nassar had used Google to search for various inappropriate “medical” terms before the FBI arrested him in December 2016. Police obtained online search records in September of that year, after speaking with Nassar victim Rachael Denhollander in August.
“The following is a sample of the searches found,” Michigan State University (MSU) Police Detective Sergeant Andrea Munford wrote in a 2016 report, listing:
pelvic floor manipulations in athletes
Legal use of medical exam gloves
Is it illegal not to use gloves with intervaginal manipulations
Intravaginal manipulations for back pain
Pubic Hair Removal Demonstration (18+) YouTube
Is it illegal not to use gloves with intravaginal manipulations
Michigan Radio obtained this document, along with others, enabling the publication to sketch out exactly how police and the FBI were able to bring this abuser to justice.
The FBI arrested the Olympic doctor for child pornography possession in December 2016, after a previous police investigation in 2014 failed to uncover the doctor’s history of sexual assault. The sports physician pled guilty to sexually assaulting at least 156 women, and received up to 175 years in prison this past January.
The second police investigation began after Denhollander made a 911 call on August 25, 2016, wishing to report a sexual assault. Denhollander and her husband, Jacob, told Det. Sgt. Munford that Nassar had repeatedly digitally penetrated Denhollander during multiple appointments. Both she and her mother noticed Nassar had a visible erection at two of those visits.
Denhollander told Munford she had been studying pelvic floor manipulation to confirm her suspicions that what Nassar had done to her wasn’t medical. She examined the Olympic doctor’s training videos and PowerPoints, arguing that “Nassar’s other hand was under the towel penetrating her vagina and/or rectum.”
“What he is showing in these videos is legitimate, but what he was doing to me was not,” Denhollander said. These videos enabled Nassar to elude criminal charges in 2014, when graduate student Amanda Thomashow claimed the doctor massaged her vagina and breast during an exam.
The day after speaking with Denhollander, Munford interviewed Nassar, and the doctor “severely stuttered over his words.”
When asked about the 2014 police investigation, Nassar insisted that since then, he had tried to have other people in the room for vaginal exams, but occasionally he was unsupervised. When Munford told him police had received a second complaint, “Nassar replied, ‘Really?’ and his right foot began to bounce.”
The detective asked the doctor point blank if he had had an erection performing such “procedures.” His story changed multiple times.
“Obviously you don’t” have an erection, he said at first, according to police documents. Then, he added, “I have no understanding of why that would be occurring … I’m not trying to get my jollies out of this.” Lastly, he added, “…I mean if there was arousal iiiit (stutters) would be becaussssse (stutters) of whatever…. When you’re a guy, sometimes you get an erection … it’s embarrassing to have that happen … that’s not appropriate.”
In mid-September 2016, Susan Dolby, a health administrator at MSU, told police that one of Nassar’s fellow MSU Sports Medicine doctors, Brooke Lemmen, had removed some of the doctor’s medical files from the school at his request. Lemmen said she was having “second thoughts” about taking the records and about turning them over to Nassar.
Lemmen told police that Nassar called her on September 12, asking her to pick up medical charts to help him identify who the “Jane Doe” was in a federal lawsuit filed against him.
Lemmen told police she struggled over the issue. “Nassar is one of those people that I tell him I love him,” she said, insisting there was no romance between them.
“I really feel vulnerable right now not knowing what I am supposed to do,” Lemmen added. Noting that she’d read in the news that there were 11 accusations against Nassar, she said, “You can’t call 11 people crazy.”
Police also interviewed Dr. Jeffrey Kovan, the head team physician and director of Sports Medicine and Performance at MSU. Kovan said he did not know if Nassar was performing intra-vaginal procedures, but he said Nassar did “some procedures from the rectal perspective.”
“The thing that has been so complicated with this is that is part of [Nassar’s] practice and I said to someone else, there has been 16 other people that have come out with complaints and the numbers should be well into the hundreds,” Kovan said at the time. “For many years this is why he has the skill set and the expertise that he does, because he does these procedures and the rest of us don’t.”
Kovan told police his team had just learned that William Strampel, then-dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, had told Nassar to follow specific protocols — like wearing gloves and having a chaperone present for vaginal procedures — after the 2014 police investigation.
“Kovan stated he is unsure if Nassar did anything wrong since he was not in the examination room,” police reported. “Kovan stated that Nassar is a good person with a good core, who believes people are good.”
In addition to these interviews, MSU police reached out to medical experts outside of MSU to determine whether Nassar’s techniques were legitimate. They also received search warrants for Nassar’s Facebook and Gmail accounts, as well as his home, which officers searched on September 20, 2016.
Police confiscated boxes of medical records, six external hardrives, three cellphones, at least 20 VHS tapes, and several DVDs. Checking the trash bins that collectors had not yet picked up, police found a large gym bag with a grocery bag inside, holding three hard drives labeled “Dr. Larry Nassar USA Gymnasics” and “USA Gymnastics, Larry Nassar, MSU Sports Medicine.”
The FBI testified in federal court that these hard drives contained more than 37,000 images of child pornography.
Strampel, who was arrested last week. , faces charges of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly groping and sexually harassing a medical student, and willful neglect of duty for allegedly “failing to enforce protocols upon Larry Nassar.”
Police use of Google search records may have helped in the case against Nassar, but it is slightly concerning that such records are accessible in this manner. Justice has been done in Nassar’s case, and it seems Strampel will also face the music. Will future cases also involve Google search records?