DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A sports doctor accused of molesting girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University has accepted a plea deal that will put him behind bars for decades.
Larry Nassar on Wednesday pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct — one for every victim the 54-year-old is accused of molesting under the guise of treatment at his Lansing-area home and a campus clinic. All but one of the victims were gymnasts, and some were under the age of 13.
The minimum sentence is 25 to 40 years in prison. A hearing is set for January 12, 2018. Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said the sentencing hearing could last for days as all victims will be allowed to speak or deliver a statement.
As part of the deal, the Attorney General agreed to not bring more than 100 other criminal charges against Nassar. The prosecutor said all 125 victims have been notified of the plea deal and they are ecstatic and “very relieved.”
Nassar admitted that he repeatedly used his position of authority as a doctor to coerce his victims to submit to the assaults, which involved penetrating their vagina with his ungloved fingers. He also admitted the procedures were against medical protocol with no legitimate purpose, and were done for his personal satisfaction alone.
“For all those involved, I am so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into a forest fire out of control,” Nassar told the court after accepting the plea. “I pray the rosary every day for forgiveness. I want them to heal. I want this community to heal. I have no animosity towards anyone, I just want healing. It’s time. So, I guess that’s the biggest thing. We need to move forward in a sense of growth and healing, and I pray that.”
Judge Aquilina was unmoved, appearing to share the victims’ outrage toward Nassar.
“You used your 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. Which, you were trained as a healer and what you did was harm them. You violated the oath that you took, which is to do no harm, and you harmed them, selfishly.”
Aquilina then called the victims “superheroes.”
“I’m not going to speak for them, they’re going to have that opportunity at sentencing and that will strengthen and heal them. But they are strong in numbers and I am proud of them,” she said. “They are superheroes for all of America because this is an epidemic.”
Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas are among the women who have publicly said they were among Nassar’s victims.
The girls have testified that Nassar molested them while they sought help for gymnastics injuries, sometimes when a parent was present in the room. Many of the allegations are the same: During the course of Nassar’s treatments, the doctor inserted “his bare, ungloved and unlubricated hand” into the victim’s vagina.
“He convinced these girls that this was some type of legitimate treatment,” Assistant Attorney General Angela Poviliatis told a judge last summer. “Why would they question him? Why would they question this gymnastics god?”
When one woman reported Nassar’s disturbing “treatments” to MSU training staff, she was allegedly told that Nassar was a world-renowned doctor and that his “inter‐vaginal adjustments” were legitimate medical treatments. The incidents took place at his Michigan State clinic, his home in Holt and at a Lansing-area gymnastics club. Some allegations go back to 1998.
Nassar was fired from Michigan State University in September 2016, and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, cut ties in 2015.
Separately, Nassar is awaiting sentencing in federal court on child pornography charges.
© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.