Thursday, October 29, 2020

Survivor accuses Engler of trying to settle lawsuit without attorney present

April 13, 2018
Survivor Kaylee Lorincz speaks during the Board of Trustees meeting on April 13, 2018 at Hannah Administration Building. (C.J. Weiss | The State News)
Survivor Kaylee Lorincz speaks during the Board of Trustees meeting on April 13, 2018 at Hannah Administration Building. (C.J. Weiss | The State News) —

At Friday's MSU Board of Trustees meeting, survivor of ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse Kaylee Lorincz used her public comment time to detail an informal meeting she had with Interim President John Engler, in which she accused him of trying to coerce her into settling her civil suit against the university without her attorney present.

When Lorincz and her mother came to the Hannah Administration Building on March 28 to sign up to speak at Friday's meeting, they ran into Engler, she said.

"I asked if we could speak to him, just so that I could introduce myself as a survivor of Larry Nassar," Lorincz said during her public comment time. "My hope is that maybe if he had actually met a survivor, he might become more empathetic to what we're experiencing."

Lorincz said Engler told them they could meet if they waited a few minutes. Lorincz and her mother met Vice President and University Spokesperson Emily Guerrant while they waited, and were introduced to Vice President and Special Counsel to the President Carol Viventi when they sat down in the Office of the President. 

Lorincz, her mother, Engler, Viventi and Guerrant were present for the meeting, Lorincz said.

Lorincz said during her public comment time she was not told Viventi was Engler's lawyer. Engler interjected during the Board of Trustees meeting, stating he wanted to make sure Lorincz's statements were factually accurate.

"She's not my lawyer," Engler said. "Be careful."

Lorincz said she told Engler her story and how much she loved MSU and wanted to help heal and make real change. Engler explained new initiatives and changes, but said the university could not work together with survivors until the civil litigation was settled.

"Mr. Engler then looked directly at me and asked, 'Right now, if I wrote you a check for $250,000, would you take it?'" Lorincz said. "When I explained that it's not about the money for me, and that I just want to help, he said, 'Well, give me a number.'"

In an interview following the Board of Trustees meeting, Lorincz said Engler brought up money about 12 times during the 45 minutes to an hour in which they met.

"All he cared about was money," Lorincz said.

Engler also said he met with Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to go public with sexual abuse allegations against Nassar and that she gave him "a number," Lorincz said. She said she felt like she was being bullied into saying something, and if Denhollander had given him a settlement amount, it was okay for her to as well.

Lorincz reiterated it was not about money to her, she said. 

"Carol Viventi said, 'Well, you're in civil litigation, aren't you? That's what a civil case is about. Money,'" Lorincz said. 

Lorincz said she had since spoken with Denhollander, who said she never met with Engler and never gave him a dollar amount.

"He's manipulative. Larry was a manipulator and now we have (Interim) President Engler being a manipulator," Lorincz said. "It's MSU for you, I guess."

Denhollander said Lorincz and her mother told her about Engler's comments soon after the meeting. She said she was absolutely disgusted when she heard Engler said she met with her, and she told him how much she'd settle for.

Denhollander has not met with Engler or any other university official since she came forward, nor have any university officials reached out to her, she said. 

"The most vile thing about that is that he lied to a sexual assault survivor whose trust has already been so damaged by her abuser," Denhollander said. "The character attacks and the slander on me, honestly, was not even my chief concern."

Like Lorincz, Denhollander said her lawsuit is not about money and there is no number she would settle for.

"It's not about money at all, and that's something that we have repeatedly said," Denhollander said. "I have never, ever, ever, not once, discussed monetary compensation with any survivor or even with my own attorney."

Recalling the meeting in March, Lorincz said Engler proceed to "attack my attorneys," who did not know the meeting was taking place.

"At this point, I was feeling pretty bad. President Engler and his lawyer had just tried to coerce me into settling a lawsuit without my attorney present," Lorincz said. 

Lorincz said Engler started talking about how "sad" it was that hundreds of osteopathic medicine doctors were being judged by the actions of "one bad doctor." She said her mother interjected, asking about former MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel, who had just been arrested on charges including felony misconduct in office and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

"President Engler rolled his eyes and attempted to fluff it off, and said, 'Oh, that was no big deal. It was only just a slap on the butt,'" Lorincz said. "I said, 'Just a slap on the butt? Larry (Nassar) did that to me too, and look how that turned out.'"

At this point, Lorincz's three minutes of public comment had expired, and Engler told Lorincz her time was up. The crowd reacted explosively, chanting, "Let her speak" as Lorincz continued to speak, Engler started to announce the next public commentator.

"President Engler ... you tried to make it feel like we were the problem and MSU was the victim because of the civil suits," Lorincz said. "This is how it works when you protect and promote a sexual predator and foster a culture of lies and cover-ups. You are responsible."

Engler did not challenge Lorincz's account during the meeting, and left the board meeting without taking questions.

Denhollander said she was disgusted by Engler's comments regarding Strampel. She said Engler, and the board that hired him, need to "be gone."

"The fact that he minimized and excused Strampel's sexual abuse of a female student and his sexually predatory behavior makes it very clear that he can't even recognize sexual abuse when he sees it, much less that he's going to be capable of standing up against it," Denhollander said. "The steps he's taken with Strampel were nothing more than a political move, it's not because he saw anything wrong with Strampel's conduct."

ESPN's Dan Murphy tweeted that Trustee Brian Mosallam told him he is "beyond disturbed" and "disgusted" if Lorincz' story is true.

WLNS News Reporter Alexandra Ilitch tweeted a statement from attorney Jamie White, who represents "more than a dozen" Nassar survivors. White stated Engler called the mother of survivor Lindsey Lemke on March 22, and spoke with her about legal matters for roughly an hour without White's knowledge.

In a press interview following the Board of Trustees meeting, Lorincz said, as of now, she will not sit down with Engler again.

"His comments continue to prove that he doesn't care about the survivors, he doesn't care how we feel," Lorincz. "He likes to hear himself talk, that's about it."

Following the Board of Trustees meeting, Engler released a statement on the discussion.

In his statement, he said he met with Lorincz and her mother along with Viventi and Guerrant to hear her experience as a survivor firsthand.

"Our memories and interpretations of the March 28 meeting are different than hers," Engler said in the statement. "I am sorry if anything said during the meeting was misunderstood. Regardless, since mediation of all claims begins on April 25, there will be an appropriate place for discussions concerning what would be a fair and equitable resolution."

He also said MSU hopes for a joint resolution to come out of litigation and that they'll work for an equitable settlement to allow all the survivors to move forward in their process of healing.

Editor's note — This article was last updated at 6:50 p.m. to include a statement from MSU Interim President John Engler.

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