Olympic gymnastics ex-doctor pleads guilty to sex charges

Olympic gymnastics ex-doctor pleads guilty to sex charges

Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas are among the women who have publicly said they were among Nassar’s victims

A former sports doctor accused of molesting at least 125 girls and young women while he worked for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple charges of sexual assault and will face at least 25 years in prison.

Larry Nassar, 54, admitted to digitally penetrating seven girls, mostly under the guise of treatment at his Lansing-area home and a campus clinic, between 1998 and 2015.

“For all those involved … I’m so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into a forest fire out of control,” he said in a courtroom packed with tearful accusers and others. “I pray the rosary every day for forgiveness. I want them to heal. I want the community to heal.”

Nassar, who lost his physician’s license in April, admitted his conduct had no legitimate medical purpose and that he did not have the girls’ consent. The 125 girls and young women who have filed reports of abuse with campus police will be able to speak at his Jan. 12 sentencing.

The plea deal in Ingham County calls for a minimum prison sentence of 25 years, but the judge could set the minimum sentence as high as 40 years. Nassar is expected to also plead guilty Nov. 29 in neighbouring Eaton County — the location of an elite gymnastics club — resolving state prosecutors’ charges against him. Separately, he is scheduled to be sentenced next month in federal court for possessing child pornography.

Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas are among the women who have publicly said they were among Nassar’s victims.

“You used your position of trust … in the most vile way to abuse children,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Nassar after his plea. “I agree that now is a time of healing, but it may take them a lifetime of healing while you spend your lifetime behind bars thinking about what you did in taking away their childhood.”

She called the victims “superheroes for all of America, because this is an epidemic.”

They had testified that Nassar molested them with his hands, sometimes when a parent was present in the room, while they sought help for gymnastics injuries. Several accusers were angry with his apology.

“The fact that he just thinks, ‘Oh, I pleaded guilty and now you guys can start healing’ is ridiculous to me. I don’t think he truly understands how many people are hurting and how bad people are hurting over this,” said Lindsey Lemke, a Michigan State gymnast.

The criminal cases against Nassar followed reports last year in The Indianapolis Star about how USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, mishandled complaints about sexual misconduct involving the doctor and coaches. Women and girls said the stories inspired them to step forward with detailed allegations of abuse.

Many of the accusers have sued Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“We are more than a year from my police report. Our abuser has pled guilty, but MSU, USAG and the USOC, you have yet to take responsibility for what happened on your watch,” said victim Rachael Denhollander. She said officials kept Nassar in power for decades after ignoring repeated reports of sexual assaults and brushing off the victims as being unable to tell the difference between a medical exam and a sexual violation.

John Manly, an attorney for 105 accusers, said the three institutions “miserably failed children,” and he likened what happened with Nassar to the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University. He criticized an internal review at Michigan State and called for an investigation of university officials by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose office is prosecuting Nassar.

Women’s gymnastics coach Kathie Klages resigned earlier this year, but others remain on the job.

“We’ve never been given the documents either in litigation or anywhere else to show who knew what when,” said Manly, who added that Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon should resign if she does not release an internal report about the scandal.

He also said USA Gymnastics officials should be investigated — possibly by an FBI task force — citing laws that require people in certain professions to report suspected child abuse to children’s protective services.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement that it was “very sorry that any athlete was harmed by Larry Nassar” and that it fired Nassar and reported him to the FBI after first learning of concerns in 2015. Manly said the organization never informed Michigan State, however, which had investigated a complaint in 2014 only to clear Nassar.

Michigan State spokesman Jason Cody said the university “unequivocally denies” accusations that it covered up misconduct by school administrators. He disclosed for the first time that university police and the FBI conducted a joint investigation earlier this year to determine if any school employees besides Nassar committed crimes.

The results were sent to the U.S. attorney for western Michigan, and “we have no reason to believe that any criminal conduct was found,” Cody said in a statement.

“Michigan State University continues to be shocked and appalled by Larry Nassar’s now-admitted criminal conduct,” he said. “Any suggestion that the university covered up this conduct is simply false.”

The U.S. Olympic Committee did not return a message to The Associated Press seeking comment.

___

Associated Press reporter Mike Householder in Lansing contributed to this report.

___

Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/David%20Eggert

David Eggert, The Associated Press

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Aerial view of a wildfire at 16 Mile, 11 kilometres northwest of Cache Creek, that started on the afternoon of June 15. (Photo credit: BC Wildfire Service)
Wildfire at 16 Mile now being held

Wildfire started on the afternoon of June 15 at 16 Mile, east of Highway 97

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
Drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of B.C. wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Most Read