Former U.S. Olympic gymnastics team doctor Lawrence G. Nassar pled guilty on Wednesday to seven counts of sexual assault in Michigan. Nassar had served as Team USA’s physician through four Olympics and has been accused of abuse by some of the most prominent names in the sport, including Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Gabby Douglas.
“You used your position of trust in the most vile way: to abuse children," Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said after the guilty plea. "I agree that now is a time of healing, but it may take them a lifetime of healing while you spend your life behind bars thinking of what you did by taking away their childhood.”
The plea deal allowed for all 125 victims who reported assaults to Michigan State Police to give victim impact statements when Nassar is sentenced in January, CNN reported.
Nassar faces 25 to 40 years in prison on each count. He was Michigan State University’s team physician for gymnastics and women’s crew for nearly 20 years.
Nassar is also awaiting sentencing on Monday on federal charges of receiving and possessing child pornography and attempted destruction of evidence to which he pled guilty in June.
Here is a short list of some of Nassar’s confessed crimes and some of those that have been reported publicly:
- The guilty pleas included three victims who were under 13 and three victims who were between the ages of 13 and 15 when Nassar sexually assaulted them, CNN reported.
- Rachael Denhollander, whose story was the first to gain traction after it was reported by the Indianapolis Star, has testified how Nassar assaulted her during medical treatment when she was 15. From the Detroit News: “She said he penetrated her vaginally and anally with his fingers, and touched her clitoris and breasts during five treatments that began in early 2000. In one instance, his cheeks were flushed, eyes were closed and he was visibly aroused.”
- A former Michigan State softball player named Tiffany Thomas Lopez said Nassar similarly assaulted her at least ten times when she was a freshman at the school in 1998.
- Last year, FBI agent Rod Charles told an NBC News affiliate that Nassar had in his home more than 37,000 images and videos of child pornography; some videos included children as young as six; there was one homemade GoPro video of Nassar molesting girls in a pool; over the course of a six years of serial abuse of a family friend, Nassar would use games of hide-and-seek as a pretext to expose himself to the child.
- More than 140 women and girls who were treated by Nassar have joined a civil lawsuit alleging some form of abuse.
- Some of the treatments when the abuse occurred lasted up to 45 minutes, according to the Detroit News.
And here’s how the officials responsible for the various institutions Nassar leveraged to commit his crimes had responded to the accusations:
- Lopez said she reported her own assault to a supervising team trainer at Michigan State University in 2000 and her report was essentially ignored. (She ultimately refused treatment, stopped playing softball, and left school.)
- Michigan State reports that there was a 2004 sexual abuse police complaint against Nassar that apparently never proceeded to prosecution, but that it was not informed of the complaint until he was fired last year.
- NBC News reports that Michigan State conducted an internal sexual harassment investigation of Nassar in 2014 after prosecutors declined to bring charges following a claim of abuse.
- The university said it had found no reason to fire Nassar at the time of that report.
- Instead of firing Nassar, the university placed restrictions on his treatments. According to emails obtained by NBC, those included having “another person in the room whenever we are approaching a patient to perform procedures of anything close to a sensitive nature.”
- At the time of the 2014 allegation, William Strampel, the dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, wrote to Nassar: "The procedure which caused the patient emotional distress because of her interpretation will be modified in the future to be sure there is little to no skin to skin contact when in these regions. Should this be absolutely necessary, the procedure will be explained in detail with another person in the room for both the explanation and the procedure. … I am happy this has resolved to some exten[t] and I am happy to have you back in full practice."
- Strampel remains in his position.
- In 2015, Nassar was fired by USA Gymnastics over concerns of alleged abuse but remained at Michigan State—which said it was unaware of those concerns—until September of 2016 following the Indianapolis Star report.
After the guilty plea, lawyers for Nassar’s victims called on Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon to either publicly release its internal investigation into how the university may have responded to reports of Nassar's assaults, or to resign.