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Nassar survivor accuses Engler of “secret payoff” attempt

Apr 13, 2018

Updated April 13th at 5:40 pm

Kaylee Lorincz, a survivor of former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse, accused Michigan State University Interim President John Engler of privately offering her a $250,000 check to drop her civil lawsuit against the school.

Lorincz says she told Engler it “wasn’t about the money.”

“Well give me a number then,” Engler replied, according to Lorincz’s allegations.

Speaking at a packed Board of Trustee’s meeting this morning, Lorincz, 18, says she and her mother, Lisa Lorincz, came to MSU two weeks ago to sign up as speakers for this meeting.

They asked to meet with Engler, and after waiting about half an hour in a conference room, were ushered into Engler’s office, along with MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant and MSU Vice President and Special Counsel to the President Carol Viventi. “Only later did I find out she was your lawyer,” Lorincz said during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“She’s not my lawyer,” Engler replied. “Be careful.”

During the meeting, Lorincz alleges Engler told her about MSU’s new safety policies created to prevent sexual abuse on campus, but said that the university couldn’t work with survivors directly “until the civil suits are settled.” More than 140 plaintiffs have joined civil suits against Michigan State University, accusing the school of allowing Nassar’s abuse to continue despite receiving numerous reports over a 20-year period.

According to Lorincz, Engler then went on to make her a financial offer, without her attorney present:

“Mr. Engler then looked directly at me and asked, ‘Right now if I wrote you a check for $250,000 would you take it?’ 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.’ He also said that he had met with Rachael Denhollander and that she gave him a number.

“I felt like I was being bullied into saying something and that if Rachael gave him a settlement amount, it was okay for me to do it too. I said again, it’s not about money.  Carol Viventi said, ‘Well you’re in civil litigation, aren’t you? That’s what a civil case is about, money.’

“Since then, I have spoken to Rachael and asked her about that meeting, but it turns out that Rachael has never met with Mr. Engler and more specifically, never gave him a dollar amount.”

Denhollander confirmed in an email Friday that Lorincz told her about the meeting with Engler:

"Yep, Kaylee and her mom both told me what happened. They told me he offered her $250,000 and asked if that would 'be enough.' When they kept telling him this wasn't about money and they weren't talking about money, he told them he'd met with me and I'd given him a number I wanted.

 This is a bald faced lie, we've never met or communicated. In fact, he's been asked by political leaders to meet with me, and has refused. I have NEVER talked about money with anyone, not even my own attorney. Money is not what this is about."

 Engler did not stay to take questions from reporters after Friday’s meeting. But his spokesperson, Emily Guerrant, confirmed that she was at the meeting with Lorincz, her mother, and Viventi.

Saying that people could have “different interpretations of the same meeting,” Guerrant said, “I don’t disagree with the themes she mentioned in there.”

As to Engler’s statement that Viventi was not his attorney, Guerrant said: “Carol is a lawyer. She is not John’s lawyer.”

Interim MSU President John Engler listens to Lorincz's statement at Friday's meeting. "She's not my lawyer," Engler said of Carol Viventi, MSU's Vice President and Special Counsel to the President. "Be careful."
Credit Kate Wells / Michigan Radio NPR

Asked if Viventi was, in fact, Special Counsel to the President, Guerrant didn’t appear sure.

“I don't believe - I'll have to check," Guerrant said immediately following the meeting. Later, she clarified that while Viventi's title is special counsel, it's more of chief of staff or senior adviser role than a legal one. 

As to whether Engler offered Lorincz a check, Guerrant said she interpreted the meeting differently.

“My interpretation of the discussion was not that he was saying, ‘I’m offering you $250,000,’ it was a discussion about the civil litigation and how it was going on,” Guerrant told reporters after Friday’s meeting. When asked if Engler had mentioned a dollar amount during the meeting, Guerrant said no.

“I don’t remember him saying that,” she said. “As far as I remember, he didn’t, no.”

At 5:20 pm Friday afternoon, Guerrant released an emailed statement on behalf of Engler: 

"I met with Kaylee and Lisa Lorincz’s on March 28. Also in the meeting were Carol Viventi and Emily Guerrant. We felt it was important to hear her experience as a survivor first-hand, as well as her ideas on how to improve our processes and culture. Given the current litigation, opportunities to speak with survivors are rare.

"Our memories and interpretations of the March 28 meeting are different than hers. 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.  

"We, too, hope for a joint resolution to these heinous crimes. We’ll be working for an equitable settlement to allow all the survivors to move forward in their process of healing."

Lorincz’s attorney: “That’s an ethical violation”

Kaylee Lorincz’s attorney, John Manly, said Friday that Lorcinz and her mother called him and told him about the meeting the day after it happened. Manly says he wrote to complain to MSU’s attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald.

“They responded and said it was just a meeting, to discuss things, and they (Engler and Viventi) weren’t there as lawyers, just as university representatives,” Manly said.  “They clearly knew she was represented because they were bad mouthing me and (another attorney) during the meeting. And then they proceed to ask her about litigation strategy. That’s an ethical violation.

“I can tell you in California, where I’m licensed, you could lose your bar license for doing that,” Manly said.

Survivor: Engler says Strampel was just “a slap on the butt”

In her statement to the board, Lorincz says Engler went on to lament during their meeting that many legitimate osteopathic doctors were being lumped in with Nassar, a former MSU and Olympic gymnastics doctor who sexually abused patients under the guise of treatment.

Her mother then protested that the problem at MSU was bigger than just “one bad doctor,” Lorincz says, and brought up the arrest of former College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel.

“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 told the trustees. Protesters at the meeting gasped audibly. “My jaw dropped, and I said ‘Just a slap on the butt? Larry did that to me too and look how that turned out.’”

Strampel was arraigned last month in Ingham County. He’s facing multiple charges for allegedly sexually harassing multiple female medical students, groping one of them, having pornography on his work computer, and failing to enforce safety protocols as Nassar’s boss.

“It’s MSU for ya, I guess,” Lorincz told reporters after the trustee’s meeting. “You know, I was really hoping to get a good positive change, you know, a good answer from President Engler, and all he cared about was money. It was like a 45 minute, hour-long meeting (I had with Engler) and he probably brought up money like 12 times. And I had to continually tell him that I’m not here for the money. I’m here for healing and change.”

Lorincz’s attorney in the civil suit, John Manly, confirmed Friday that Lorincz had informed him of this meeting with Engler previously.