The former USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar, has pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual assault on Wednesday in Ingham County (Mich.) Circuit Court. He is expected to face at least 25 years in prison.
Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, 54, was charged with the molestation of seven girls, most of whom were gymnasts, but he has been accused of various levels of inappropriate or abusive sexual behavior by a group of more than 130 women and girls, including the Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas.
“For all those involved, I’m so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into a forest fire out of control,” Nassar said. “I have no animosity toward anyone. I just want healing. … We need to move forward in a sense of growth and healing and I pray (for) that.”
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina responded: “You used that position of trust that you had in the most vile way to abuse children,” she said. “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.”
Aquilina continued, “You violated the oath that you took, which is to do no harm, and you harmed them selfishly. … They are superheroes for all of America because this is an epidemic.”
In all, Nassar had been charged with 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and 11 counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct at the state level, Megan Hawthorne, deputy press secretary for state Attorney General Bill Schuette, told CNN in July.
Several of the first-degree charges pertained to victims under 13, and all of the state-level charges involve former family friends, gymnasts and patients of Nassar, Hawthorne said.
Nassar is also awaiting sentencing on federal charges of receiving child pornography, possessing child pornography and a charge that he hid and destroyed evidence in the case. That hearing is scheduled for Monday.
Three-time gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman called Nassar a monster on Twitter and criticized the court for referring to him as a doctor.
“Court referring to Larry as DOCTOR Nassar. I AM DISGUSTED. I am very disappointed. He does NOT deserve that. Larry is (disgusting). Larry is a MONSTER not a doctor,” she wrote.
In a statement, USA Gymnastics praised Douglas and her teammates for their willingness to speak out.
“The conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused is appalling, and we are very sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career,” the organization said.
In light of the sex abuse scandal, USA Gymnastics adopted a series of reforms in June that it said will help prevent and respond to future cases of abuse. All members are now required to report suspected sexual misconduct, and adults kicked out of a club will be tracked in a database.
“We are committed to further developing a culture that has safe sport as a top priority throughout the organization,” USA Gymnastics said.