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USA Gymnastics Doctor Pleads Guilty To Assault, Faces Decades In Prison

Dr. Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University sports doctor and USA Gymnastics team doctor accused of molesting or assaulting more than 100 girls and women, has pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and faces decades in prison.

This state criminal case involved seven of his accusers. There are other criminal charges pending, and many more girls and women have sued Nassar in civil cases.

He entered his plea Wednesday in a packed courtroom in Michigan, with several of his accusers in the audience. Some of them wept, The Associated Press reports.

As part of this plea, Nassar will be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison. Under the terms of his plea deal, the judge could go higher and set a minimum sentence of 40 years.

Nassar previously pleaded guilty to federal charges of possessing child pornography, and he awaits sentencing on those charges. As part of that plea deal, prosecutors dropped federal charges related to allegations of sexual abuse.

But the state case continued, leading to the guilty plea on Wednesday. His sentencing is set for Jan. 12.

The Associated Press has more on the case:

"The girls have testified that Nassar molested them with his hands, sometimes when a parent was present in the room, while they sought help for gymnastics injuries.

" '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?'

"Separately, Nassar is charged with similar crimes in Eaton County, the location of an elite gymnastics club."

In 2016, The Indianapolis Star spent months digging into the pattern of sexual abuse at USA Gymnastics, the largest U.S. gymnastics organization and the national governing body for the sport. The IndyStar reporters found that the organization ignored complaints about predatory coaches and failed to alert authorities about allegations of sexual abuse.

In the course of that broader investigation, they spoke to two gymnasts who accused Nassar — a powerful, prominent figure within the gymnastics world — of sexual abuse.

The publication of those two accounts unleashed a flood of similar stories. Olympic medalists McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and now Gabby Douglas are among the scores of girls and women who have come forward to say that they, too, were abused.

Maroney described her experience vividly, as we reported in October:

" 'I had a dream to go to the Olympics,' she writes in a statement posted to Twitter, 'and the things that I had to endure to get there, were unnecessary, and disgusting.'

" 'Dr. Nassar told me that I was receiving "medically necessary treatment that he had been performing on patients for over 30 years," ' she writes. 'It started when I was 13 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn't end until I left the sport.' She says the abuse continued in London during the 2012 games.

"Maroney says the scariest night of her life happened when she was 15 years old, when the team traveled to Tokyo. She says Nassar gave her a sleeping pill to help her sleep on the flight, and when she awoke she was alone with him in his hotel room, 'getting a "treatment." ' She does not describe his specific actions.

" 'I thought I was going to die that night,' she writes."

Aly Raisman, speaking to CBS's 60 Minutes earlier this month, said she thinks about Nassar and the culture that tolerated his predatory behavior whenever young girls come up and ask her for an autograph.

"Every time I look at them, every time I see them smiling, I just think — I just want to create change so that they never, ever have to go through this," she said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
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