The son of Michigan State trustee George Perles said Wednesday that an allegation in a recent lawsuit that Perles covered up a rape by Larry Nassar in the early 1990s is a lie.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court on behalf of a former Michigan State field hockey player who says she was drugged, raped and impregnated by Nassar in 1992. The woman, Erika Davis, states that she told her coach and another university employee about the rape. According to the lawsuit, Perles intervened when he learned about the allegations and went "to great lengths to conceal this conduct."
Perles, 84, coached the Michigan State football team from 1983 to 1994 and also served as the school's athletic director in the early 1990s. He has been a member of the board of trustees since 2007. Perles has no memory of a complaint made about a doctor raping a student-athlete during his time as athletic director, his son Pat said.
"His memory is remarkably good for a man his age," Pat Perles said. "He doesn't remember any of this because it never happened. There was no meeting with the field hockey coach. It certainly didn't include this subject. It's a fabrication."
Davis says in the lawsuit that Nassar, the disgraced former doctor who has been convicted of sexually abusing his patients at Michigan State and elsewhere, videotaped the assault. Former Michigan State field hockey coach Martha Ludwig confronted Nassar in May 1992 and obtained that tape, according to the lawsuit. The suit states that when Ludwig showed the tape to the school's athletic director, George Perles made her turn over the tape and resign while signing a nondisclosure agreement.
Attempts to reach Ludwig for comment this week were not successful.
Perles announced that he planned to step down from his position as athletic director in early April 1992. His replacement took over in mid-May, according to media reports from that time period. He remained a part of the athletic department as the football coach for two more years.
"The timeline doesn't fit," Pat Perles said. "They could amend the lawsuit, but the claim is that the field hockey coach met with my father in mid- to late May."
Nassar was on Michigan State's campus as a medical student in 1992. At that time, he was working as an athletic trainer for gymnasts, as well. Several other women say Nassar started to molest them in the early 1990s. Davis is the only woman among 333 complainants who says Nassar raped her.
Michigan State is investigating the claims made against Perles and others named in the lawsuit and is taking them seriously, university spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said. Michigan's attorney general's office, which is conducting an ongoing investigation into how the university handled claims against Nassar, also is reviewing the allegations made in Davis' lawsuit.
Jordan Merson, one of three attorneys who represent Davis, declined to answer questions about the case this week.
The suit also states that Davis told university police about the rape during the summer of 1992. It says a sergeant at the Michigan State University police department told her that because she was an athlete, any complaint had to go through the athletic department. Police told Davis, "George Perles is a 'powerful man,' and she should just drop it," according to the lawsuit.
Michigan State University police chief Jim Dunlap called that claim "nonsense."
"I wasn't the chief 26 years ago, but I was here 26 years ago, and I can tell you philosophically that just didn't occur that we refuse to take a report," Dunlap said. "You might not like an outcome from an investigation, but I can say unequivocally we don't give investigations to non-law enforcement agencies."
Pat Perles, who previously played and coached football for the Spartans, said he believes Michigan State should take the allegations seriously and investigate them thoroughly. He said he was not at liberty to say whether his father had been contacted by any other law enforcement agencies this week.
"[My parents'] feeling more than anything is that this detracts from the true suffering and pain that all these women have gone through and continue to go through," Pat Perles said. "It discredits the pain and suffering of all these other people who were abused by Nassar because someone is trying to take advantage for a quick payday."