Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State physician, will appear in federal court in Grand Rapids, Mich., tomorrow to plead guilty to three charges related to receipt and possession of child pornography and the destruction and concealment of records.
The plea deal, which was first reported by The Detroit News, was signed by Nassar on June 23 and by one of his attorneys, Matt Newburg on July 5.
The federal case against Nassar started when USA Gymnastics reported him to the FBI in July 2015, after they had conducted a much-criticized five week investigation into his behavior after being alerted to a problem by a coach at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas. Those early reports about Nassar were apparently about alleged assaults that occurred under the guise of medical treatment at the national team training site, not digital crimes. According to the Wall Street Journal, it took nearly a year for the FBI to begin formally investigating Nassar and questioning gymnasts about the alleged abuse. And it wasn’t until September 2016 that they executed a search warrant on his property where they recovered hard drives that were in the garbage, awaiting trash collection. According to the feds, on those drives were 37,000 images of child pornography, including videos of Nassar assaulting young girls in his home swimming pool.
The FBI unsealed its indictment against Nassar in December. He has been held in federal custody ever since.
The FBI later added to the charges listed in the indictment when they discovered that Nassar had destroyed evidence by having his work laptop (including its operating system) completely wiped.
Though the federal case against Nassar started with allegations of sexual assault while he was working as the team physician for USA Gymnastics, the FBI seems to have mainly pursued its investigation as it related to the digital crimes. As part of the plea deal, the FBI agrees to not charge Nassar with the assaults they investigated him for, including those that were captured on video recovered from his hard drives.
Outside the Lines spoke to alleged Nassar victims who were upset that the FBI won’t be filing federal assault charges. “It just bothered me because all of our molestation cases didn’t get justice,” one former national team member said. The gymnast said that she believed that the only reason that FBI agents met with her and other victims to explain their decision to not pursue charges based on their assaults was an attempt to “smooth things over.”
While accepting the plea deal will end the federal case against Nassar, he is still facing state trials for sexual assault charges, mostly stemming from his work as an osteopathic physician at MSU and at local private clubs in Michigan. In Ingham County, he was charged with 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and in Eaton County, he’s facing seven-counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and six counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Nassar has pled not guilty to all of state charges.
Update 7/11: Nassar has formally accepted the plea with a sentencing guideline that recommends between 22 and 27 years in prison for the former physician.