Public comment limited in Nassar investigation

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – A judge has granted a motion that limits the amount of public disclosure in the sexual assault investigation against former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

This includes the Attorney General and lawyers who are working the case against Nassar.

It’s a stipulated order that says none of the lawyers appearing in this case can express their opinion on the investigation as it continues.

Andrea Bitely, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said “such orders are common in high profile cases and we are moving forward towards the trial phase.”

Nassar’s attorneys Matthew Newburg and Shannon Smith filed the motion on March 2, 2017 in Ingham and Eaton County. They declined to comment on the recent order.

The filing said the Attorney General’s statements during previous news conferences are jeopardizing Nassar’s right to a fair trial.

In the most recent news conference in February, Attorney General Bill Schuette announced 22 charges of criminal sexual conduct against the former MSU and USA gymnastics doctor for allegedly using his position as doctor to sexually abuse young women and girls during medical treatments.

Calling the case “one of the biggest in Michigan’s history,” Schuette called Nassar “disgusting,” “despicable” and a “monster” when discussing the details of the sexual assault allegations listed in an affidavit that helped bring the charges against him.

The motion says the comments made by the Attorney General violate the Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct 3.6.

It also references statements made by Attorney General Schuette during a news conference on November 22, 2016, where he announced three counts of criminal sexual conduct against Nassar.

“At that press conference, Attorney General Bill Schuette also repeatedly referred to Defendant Nassar’s conduct as predatory; indicated that the original criminal charges were the ‘tip of the iceberg,’” the motion says.

It also references a number of social media posts on the Attorney General’s Twitter page where “the Attorney General has repeatedly tweeted and re-tweeted inflammatory claims relating to these criminal

proceedings.”

Andrea Bitely, a spokesperson for Schuette, said “The Attorney General stands by his statements.”

One of the social media posts tweeted by Schuette says: “For all 22 counts, I have instructed AAGs Povilaitis and Liddell to seek life in prison.”

The motion says public comments such as the above “have put Defendant Nassar’s constitutional right to a fair trial and impartial jury in obvious and serious jeopardy.”

It also references Sheppard v Maxwell, a case that went to the United States Supreme Court, in which the court noted: “Due Process required that the accused receive a trial by an impartial jury free from outside influences.”

It goes on to say “Given the pervasiveness of modern communications and the difficulty of effacing prejudicial publicity from the minds of the jurors, the trial courts must take strong measures to ensure that the balance is never weighed against the accused.

The motion also seeks to add the same rule when it comes to attorneys working the case.

“None of the lawyers appearing in this case and none of the persons associated with them (including any persons with supervisory authority over them) will release or authorize the release of information or opinion about this criminal proceeding,” it says.

It also asks that information including documents and testimony that are not in the public record, not be released.

“All court personnel, including among other, sheriffs, bailiffs, sheriff’s deputies, court clerks, deputy court clerks, court security officers, court reporters, and employees or subcontractors retained by the court-appointed official reporters, are prohibited from disclosing to any person, without authorization by the court, any information related to this criminal case that is not part of the public record of the court.”

Nassar’s attorneys declined to comment on the judge’s recent order.

Nassar now faces more than 20 charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct at the state level. He’s also facing federal child pornography charges.

On top of the criminal cases, more than 50 women in civil court are also suing him.

Law enforcement officials say more than 90 people have filed complaints against Nassar.

Nassar has maintained his innocence in both state and federal court and says the treatments he performed on his patients were accepted medical techniques.

The preliminary hearing in Ingham County will be on two days, May 12 and May 26. The preliminary hearing in Eaton County has been set for June 30.

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