Outrage as USA Gymnastics sex assault deal pays some victims only US$82,550, say reports

Simone Biles performs on the beam in Stuttgart, Germany, on Oct 13, 2019. Simone Biles would be among 66 gymnasts to receive the top-level settlement amount of US$1.25 million. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - A proposed USA Gymnastics tiered settlement system would pay some sexual assault victims of former US team doctor Larry Nassar only US$82,550 (S$115,800), according to multiple reports on Saturday (Feb 22) detailing the payment plans.

Simone Biles, expected to be among the stars of this year's Tokyo Olympics after winning four gold medals at Rio in 2016 and 19 world titles including a fifth all-around crown last year, would be among 66 gymnasts to receive the top-level settlement amount of US$1.25 million.

An attorney for hundreds of victims of Nassar's abuse says the total US$215 million settlement offer is insufficient and releases too many people from further claims, including the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, former USA Gymnastics chief executive Steve Penny and former national team directors Bela and Martha Karolyi.

A disclosure statement filed with the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana was outlined in reports by the Orange County Register and ESPN, detailing what 517 people Nassar assaulted would be paid under terms of the settlement.

Amounts ranging from US$1.25 million to a minimum of US$82,550 were detailed in a Friday filing on the deal, which the insurance carriers of USA Gymnastics would provide to conclude years of legal battles.

Nassar, serving a 60-year prison sentence for child pornography, has received multiple sentences for more than 100 years for sexual assaults.

Women sexually abused by him at the Olympics, world championships, US team training camps or other national team events would each receive US$1,250,757 under the settlement plan.

Non-elite gymnasts sexually abused at USA Gymnastics-sanctioned events would be paid US$508,670 while those abused at non-USA Gymnastics locations would be paid US$174,401 and individuals with "derivative claims" would be paid only US$82,550.

Southern California lawyer John Manly, who represents more than 180 clients with active claims against USA Gymnastics, called the settlement offer "dead on arrival" in January because it would prevent further action against US Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials.

"Let's be clear for parents considering putting your child in a gym sanctioned by USA Gymnastics," Manly told the Orange County Register.

"What USA Gymnastics is saying: If we place a known paedophile in that gym and that individual rapes your child, then your child is worth $82,000.

"My client Rachael Denhollander asked what is a little girl worth. Apparently if you're raped by the national team doctor, you're worth $82,000 to USA Gymnastics.

"This is the most disgusting, reprehensible, vile view of children I can imagine."

Manly said that for USA Gymnastics to make the pitch "and act like it is a constructive step shows how out of touch they are. Steve Penny was so bad USA Gymnastics banned him for life, the Karolyis, every one of them, and they pay nothing. They have no consequences.

"What message does that send to the next Steve Penny? The message is you get off scot free."

Manly told ESPN the plan shows USA Gymnastics and the USOPC are "morally bankrupt".

"Their plan allows all of Nassar's many protectors - Steve Penny, Marta Karolyi, Scott Blackmun and others - to escape justice completely and pay nothing.

"Even more incredibly, the USOPC pays zero to America's Olympian victims and gets a complete discharge from liability.

"Blackmun, Penny and other Olympic officials knew Larry Nassar was molesting little girls. They let him continue to molest for over a year to avoid a scandal."

Attorney Mick Grewal, whose firm represents more than 160 women abused by Nassar, told ESPN the settlement offer was "inadequate" and a "non-starter".

"(The USOPC is) trying to get out of this without providing any information, without and transparency and without any accountability," Grewal said. "Their failure to provide adequate information is going to continue to further traumatise our clients."

USA Gymnastics, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2018, said in the filing the gymnasts have until May 8 to approve the proposed settlement.

Should the settlement be rejected, they can file lawsuits after USA Gymnastics exits bankruptcy, with plans possibly approved before the Tokyo Olympics begin in July.

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