Just one day after 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas said that former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar had sexually abused her during her athletic career, Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan.
Nassar, who had already pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges earlier this year, admitted in open court that he had sexually abused young girls. He waived his right to assert his previous defense, that what he did constituted legitimate medical treatment. In response to questioning from the judge, he admitted that what he did to these young women and girls—several of the charges related to criminal sexual conduct against a minor under the age of 13—had no legitimate medical applications and that he done it solely for his own gratification.
In exchange for the plea, the attorney general’s office agreed to drop other charges against him and not pursue charges related to child pornography that fall outside the federal child porn case against him. There is a mandatory minimum of 25 years for the charges related to abuse of children under the age of 13. The plea deal stipulated a sentencing range of 25 to 40 years in prison for the misconduct charges.
At the end of the hearing, Nassar’s attorneys asked if the defendant could say a few words. In an almost self-congratulatory statement, Nassar made it seem like his guilty plea was practically a selfless act instead of the only move available to a cornered man. “I think this is important, what I’ve done today to help move the community forward and away from the hurting, let the healing start,” he began. “I want them to heal,” he said.
“I have no animosity towards anyone,” Nassar said, and added that he prays for forgiveness every day with his rosary.
Lynn Raisman, Aly Raisman’s mother, was clearly not moved by Nassar’s “forgiveness.”
Earlier, when he was entering his guilty pleas for all of the charges, Nassar seemed nervous, but when giving this self-aggrandizing speech, he appeared almost at ease.
What Nassar did in the courtroom—professing care for well-being of the victims—was the same thing he did for years in order to earn the trust of the gymnasts, parents, and coaches so that he could abuse young girls. He repeatedly talked about caring for for the physical and mental well-being of the gymnasts. When the first public allegations against Nassar surfaced, these supportive statements were revealed for what they actually were—grotesque manipulations.
Thankfully, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina did not let Nassar’s faux apology be the last word in court today. “I agree that now is the time of healing, but it may take them a lifetime a healing while you spend your lifetime behind bars thinking about what you did in taking away their childhood,” she said. (This statement also tipped her hand a bit, indicating that she might go for the maximum sentences available to her under the agreement.)
Nassar will be sentenced on January 12. All of the victims—more than 120—who reported abuse to the Michigan State police and to the attorney general’s office will be allowed to give victim impact statements at that time.