USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar Pleads Guilty To Molesting Girls & Could Face 25 Years In Prison
The former USA Gymnastics team doctor accused of sexually abusive or inappropriate behavior by more than 130 young girls and women, Larry Nassar, has pleaded guilty to molestation charges. The New York Times reported that Nassar, who pleaded guilty on Wednesday after being charged with sexually assaulting seven girls, is expected to face at least 25 years in prison.
According to the Times, Nassar's victims will have the opportunity to speak at his sentencing on Jan. 12. In his own statement on Wednesday, Nassar said his plea was meant to "move the community forward and stop the hurting.” Nassar's accusers include Olympic gold medalists and Team USA gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Gabby Douglas, who claimed he abused her in an Instagram post Tuesday.
The charges for which Nassar pleaded guilty include allegations that he molested the girls during "treatments" for sports injuries during his time as a Team USA doctor, sometimes with their parents present. During the preliminary hearing, Nassar's victims testified that the abuse most often came under the guise of medical treatments.
One of those alleged victims testified that she visited Nassar's office to seek treatment for a foot injury when she was 11 years old. According to her, Nassar had her remove her underwear before digitally penetrating her — an allegation that mirrored those of many of his other alleged victims, Michigan Radio reported.
In July, Nassar pleaded guilty to charges of child pornography. He is expected to be sentenced for those charges on Nov. 27.
Nassar was fired by USA Gymnastics in 2015, though some of his accusers claim the organization was aware of the allegations long before that time. An investigation by the Indy Star uncovered several instances of coaches preying on young female athletes for years after USA Gymnastics dismissed warnings about them. (In a statement following that investigation, USA Gymnastics said its president had notified law enforcement "immediately after learning of athlete concerns about Dr. Nassar in the summer of 2015). Nassar himself disputed claims that he was fired at all, saying he left voluntarily.
In August 2016, Nassar was relieved of clinical and patient duties at Michigan State University, where he had been cleared of wrongdoing in 2014 (after a student athlete accused him of sexual assault during a medical examination).
In the years since he left the organization and the university, the allegations against Nassar have piled up. On Wednesday, Raisman tweeted her disgust that the court referred to him as a "doctor," saying that he was instead "a monster."
Following the news of Nassar's plea, one of his accusers, Rachael Denhollander said at a press conference that the plea demonstrated "the psychological state Larry's in — he's a consummate narcissist, he's a master manipulator... I don't believe there was anything sincere in what Larry said, other than his desire to refocus the attention on the good he believed he did today."
Denhollander, a gymnast who accused Nassar of sexually abusing her in 2000 (when she was 15 years old), also denounced both Michigan State and USA Gymnastics, saying the organizations' "missed" many of the warning signs. "A lot of Larry's behavior and Larry's personality — they fit the profile perfectly," she said, adding that it was "extremely distressing" that officials "repeatedly missed these warning signs."
Denhollander came forward with her allegations earlier this year, telling People magazine that the abuse occurred even while her mother was in the room. One of the seven counts for which Nassar pleaded guilty today included Denhollander's allegations.
The Los Angeles Times notes that Nassar's plea deal with prosecutors calls for a 25-year minimum, though the judge could raise that to as long as 40 years.