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U.S. Gymnastics doctor pleads guilty to sexual assault charges

November 22, 2017

A sports doctor accused of molesting girls while working for Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple charges of sexual assault and will face at least 25 years in prison.

Dr. Larry Nassar, 54, was charged with molesting seven girls, mostly under the guise of treatment at his Lansing-area home and a campus clinic. All but one of his accusers was a gymnast. He faces similar charges in a neighboring county and lawsuits filed by more than 125 women and girls.

Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas are among the women who have publicly said they were among Nassar's victims.

Some of his accusers attended the hearing Wednesday in a packed Ingham County courtroom. Some were crying.

Nassar admitted to digital penetrating the victims and agreed that his conduct had no legitimate medical purpose and that he did not have the girls' consent.

The plea deal in Ingham County calls for a minimum prison sentence of 25 years, but a judge could set the minimum sentence as high as 40 years. In Michigan, inmates are eligible for parole after serving a minimum sentence.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 12.

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. He also is awaiting sentencing in federal court on child pornography charges.

The Michigan criminal cases against Nassar followed reports last year in the Indianapolis Star about how USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, mishandled complaints about sexual misconduct involving the doctor and coaches. Women and girls said the stories inspired them to step forward with detailed allegations of abuse, sometimes when their parents were in the exam room at Michigan State.

In court, Nassar said he is "horribly sorry" and that he prays "for forgiveness every day."

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Nassar he used his position of trust "in the most vile way" to abuse children.

USA Gymnastics has hired a new CEO and made other changes in the wake of the scandal caused by Nassar's actions.

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