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Judge orders courtroom closed against gymnastics doctor

CHARLOTTE, Mich. -- A judge has barred the public from the courtroom when two women and a teenage girl are expected to testify that a Michigan sports doctor sexually assaulted them during medical appointments. 

The Lansing State Journal reports Eaton County District Court Judge Julie Reincke said Friday she will allow one support person for each of the witnesses against Larry Nassar to be present for the June testimony. She says one print reporter will be allowed but will be prohibited from identifying the witnesses.

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Nassar was a doctor for Michigan State University athletics and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He’s charged with molesting 10 girls in the Lansing area. Not-guilty pleas have been entered on his behalf. 

In February, three former star gymnasts spoke out on “60 Minutes” for the first time publicly. They said Nassar, a doctor for the U.S. national women’s gymnastics team, allegedly masked sexual abuse as medical treatment for years. They described what they said was an emotionally abusive environment at the national team training camps at the Texas ranch run by coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi. They said the circumstances provided Dr. Nassar an opportunity to take advantage of them and made them afraid to speak up about physical or emotional pain.

Jessica Howard, the U.S. national champion in rhythmic gymnastics from 1999 to 2001, told CBS News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook on “60 Minutes,” she she felt like something was “off” when Nassar treated her. 

“I didn’t feel like I was able to say anything because he was, you know, this very high-profile doctor,” Howard said. “And I was very lucky to be at the ranch working with him.” 

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A girl identified as Victim B, now 21, said she was “sexually assaulted by Nassar ‘more times than she could count,’” Det. Sgt. Andrea Munford wrote in an affidavit in Feb. 

“Victim B stated that she and all the gymnasts trusted Nassar and that he was like a god to the gymnasts. ... Because it was happening to all of them, they thought it was normal,” Munford said of abuse.

In two separate criminal cases filed in 2016, Nassar is charged with possessing child pornography and molesting the daughter of family friends. Those cases are pending, and Nassar is in jail without bond.

Through his lawyers, Nassar has defended his treatment as a legitimate medical procedure. 

Nassar was a longtime doctor for women and girls at Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He has denied any abuse, and, in an email last fall to his Michigan State bosses, said, “I will overcome this.”  

Reincke’s order also bars civil attorneys who are suing Nassar and Michigan State. MSU fired Nassar in September.

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