The explosive sexual abuse case against a convicted USA Gymnastics doctor ties right back to a rural Georgia courtroom.
Former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced this week to 175 years in prison.
"I think this case is a really good example of how sunshine, as they've said in the courts for many years, is the best disinfectant," Atlanta attorney Derek Bauer said.
Bauer received a call from the Indianapolis Star’s investigative editor in the spring of 2016. He said they needed to know if they had a right to records in an Effingham County, Georgia case.
"Related to coaching misconduct files that USA Gymnastics had kept in a drawer for 10 to 20 years and never disclosed," Bauer said.
It took nine months and a bitter fight with USA Gymnastics for those files to become public. The revelation caused more than 100 women to come forward in a sexual abuse case that has captured the nation's attention.
"What we have found out is there is a Georgia link to this issue," Ga. Rep. Jason Spencer said.
The records request was tied to a former Georgia gymnastics coach. In 2007, William McCabe was sentenced to 30 years in prison after he was found guilty of taking pornographic images of gymnasts over many years and sending them to one of his young students.
The student's mother flagged the FBI and a 2016 lawsuit accused USA Gymnastics of concealing sexual abuse complaints against McCabe prior to his arrival in Georgia.
"USA Gymnastics made it clear to everybody that they weren't going to release these records until they absolutely had to," Bauer said.
He said the Indy Star's report on the fight and the eventual court-ordered records release led to former gymnasts coming forward.
"Including the first accuser of Dr. Nassar. First, it was a trickle, and then it was a flood," Bauer said.
It all came to a head Wednesday when Nassar was sentenced.
"They used that portion of the Hidden Predator Act to link to this guy," Spencer said.
Spencer sponsored a bill that included a provision for private entities to release records. Those type of records proved critical in unraveling Nassar's case.
"We all now know that if it weren't for that sunshine, all these women wouldn't have had the courage or ability to get their stories told. Nassar would still be doing what he was doing," Bauer said.
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