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Gymnasts Ask Paxton To Investigate Karolyi Ranch Owners In Abuse Scandal

Gabriel C. Pérez
Gymnasts Jeanette Antolin, Autumn Blaney, Jamie Dantzscher, Lindsey Lemke and Kayla Spicher look on during a press conference calling for the Texas Attorney General's Office to take action against Olympic coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi.

Young women molested by Larry Nassar, the disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor, called on Texas to pursue criminal and civil charges against the owners of the Karolyi Ranch, a Huntsville facility that hosted the women's national team for decades.

Nassar is serving up to 175 years in prison for a decades-long sexual abuse scandal that involved hundreds of young girls across the country. Many of the survivors testified that they were abused at the Karolyi Ranch, a national gymnastics training site owned by Bela and Martha Karolyi. Attorneys for the survivors say the Karolyis violated state law by not reporting the abuse to authorities.

"We believe there are a number of crimes that the Karolyis are responsible for because of what happened on their property," Attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel said at a press conference today. "Not only civil liability, but criminal offenses that they committed by not protecting these young women."

She called on the Attorney General's Office to act quickly because the gymnasts are running out of time under the statute of limitations.  

Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT
Attorneys for the survivors say Martha Karolyi testified under oath that she knew about the abuse allegations earlier than the couple had said.

The Karoylis say they learned of the misconduct sometime after the 2016 Summer Olympics. But lawyers for the survivors point to a court document in which Martha Karolyi says under oath that she was aware of the misconduct as early as June 2015.

Sixteen-year-old Autumn Blaney said she was abused a full year after that date.

"I think that it's awful that I couldn't trust adults that were supposed to protect me throughout this process," she said, "and Larry probably wouldn't have ever touched me, if the adults had done their jobs."

Shortly after the press conference, the Attorney General's Office said the investigation was outside of its jurisdiction.

"At this time the Office of the Attorney General has received no formal appointment or request to join this investigation," spokesman Marc Rylander said. The Texas Rangers are currently handling the investigation, at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott.

The Karoylis themselves filed a lawsuit last month against USA Gymnastics, arguing that the scandal has sullied their name.

Nadia Hamdan is a local news anchor and host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT.
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